You can open all the vape shops you want.
You just can’t do it in the heart of downtown Patchogue.
That’s according to a measure the Patchogue Village Board passed Monday night that restricts the operation of vapor-producing electronic cigarette retail shops to Route 112 and Waverly Avenue.
Mayor Paul Pontieri and other board members expressed grave concerns with health risks associated with vaporized nicotine, citing evidence that indicates vaping is not safer than traditional cigarettes and that teenagers are vaping at alarming rates.
“Personally, I have a real problem with it on the health side,” Pontieri said. “By limiting it to those two zones (Waverly Avenue and Route 112), you limit the growth of it and you limit the size of it.”
The new restrictions will block Aaron Klaushke and his partner at CloudTronix LLC from opening next to 89 North Music Venue on North Ocean Avenue.
The CloudTronix application to the village is what spurred the new zoning restriction.
Klaushke said after Monday night’s vote that the company has no intention of opening elsewhere in Patchogue, away from the downtown foot traffic. He also pointed out that two other vaporizer shops already exist just north of Patchogue Village.
Cloudtronix will now look to another village or hamlet, Klaushke said.
During his testimony, Klaushke said many oft-cited studies finding negative health consequences associated with nicotine vaping are now dated, and that countries like the United Kingdom are encouraging their use over traditional cigarettes.
He also said he — and several other people he knows, including his brother — quit smoking cigarettes in favor of vaporizers, and that a big focus of his company is smoking cessation, saying his mother died of lung cancer last April from smoking cigarettes.
Klaushke also displayed to the board examples of oil vaporizers, along with the type of electronic cigarettes with the glowing blue tips you would find in gas stations.
“These are all made by big tobacco,” Klaushke said, holding up an example of a gas station-style electronic cigarette. “There’s no way to tell what’s in them.”
That us-versus-big tobacco appears to be the mentality within the vape community.
Devon Shepard, the manager at High Times Vape on Route 112 in North Patchogue — which also sells glass pipes, which Klaushke said his store would not — scoffed at the new restrictions.
“So they don’t want a healthier, safer alternative for nicotine users?” she said, insisting vaping to be healthier than burning cigarettes. “The village would rather promote big tobacco companies? How many gas station are on Main Street, all promoting big tobacco?”
Of course, she said, vaping isn’t healthy for you; it’s a vice like other vices, but the lesser of all evils.
“No one is coming out and saying vaping is good for you,” Shepard said. “But we can confidently say that it is better than tobacco products. I think it’s just common sense, to be honest. You’re going from burning organic plant matter covered in chemicals versus inhaling an oil-based vapor that contains four to six ingredients.
“And the ingredients and flavoring they use in these liquids are all approved for food as well,” she continued, reading from bottles. “I can give you kosher nicotine; that’s how intricate and in-depth these companies are now. They’re not just throwing out crap in little vials at the gas stations like you saw when vaping first became popular 10 years ago.”
She and High Times Vape owner Tariq Halepota said people are starting to stereotype vape shops or vape lounges as places where druggies hang out.
But they say their customers include healthcare professionals, service men and women and a lot of recent grandparents looking to finally quit cigarettes. Then there’s the electricians and others tech geeks that like to build and experiment with their own contraptions.
“It’s definitely become a social, recreational thing,” Shepard said. “But people come in here concerned for their health, or their wallet. Hopefully their health.”
The village’s attorney, Brian Egan, also explained during the meeting that under county law, just like with cigarettes, vaping is illegal in indoor public spaces in Suffolk.
He said cigar shops allow smoking indoors because, again citing the county code, more than 89 percent of a cigar shop’s business comes from tobacco sales, and thus it’s allowed. Liquid nicotine isn’t classified as a tobacco product.
Pontieri also said that, unlike with restaurants being allowed to pour alcohol, which is regulated by the State Liquor Authority, the village has greater control over the scope of operations like vape shops or hookah bars, which the village has already outlawed.
“With this, we have that ability to somehow limit the downside of e-smoking,” Pontieri said.
Correction: The initial story misspelled the name CloudTronix LLC.
Photo: Examples of liquid nicotine at High Times Vape. (Michael White)