High number of smoke shops in South Bronx worries doctors, students

Kristin Thorne Image
Friday, September 22, 2023
High number of smoke shops in South Bronx worries doctors, students
EMBED <>More Videos

Some emergency room doctors in the Bronx say they're seeing a disturbing trend of young students coming into the ER sick from cannabis. Kristin Thorne has more on the investigation

BRONX (WABC) -- Some emergency room doctors in the Bronx tell Eyewitness News they're seeing a disturbing trend of middle, and even elementary school students, coming into the ER on their way to school in the morning sick from cannabis. They said they're concerned it may have something to do with the proliferation of smoke shops in the Bronx.

Dr. Blanca Grand, emergency medicine physician at St. Barnabas Hospital, said she is seeing in the morning young children suffering from nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain and the patients tell doctors they had ingested marijuana shortly before arriving at school.

"They're at school and they're exhibiting some symptoms," she said. "They're not well and they're brought here from school."

Eyewitness News found 39 smoke shops within a 1.6-mile radius of the South Bronx.

We spoke with a group of local high school students about the number of smoke shops in their neighborhood.

"We have seen these smoke shops pop up everywhere," student Alexa Pacheco said.

"It's just very alarming the fact that this is happening in our neighborhood," student Itzel Robles said.

Pacheco, Robles and other high school students with the Bronx Documentary Center tried to tackle the issue in one of the BDC's recent publications https://www.bronxdoc.org/news/bdc-focus-issue-2-is-live.

"I think we should pay more attention to this because this is very concerning, especially for parents," Robles said.

The students told Eyewitness News during their research for the article, a smoke shop owner offered pot to a 15-year-old student who was in his school uniform.

According to the New York State health law https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/tobacco_control/current_policies.htm, smoke shops in New York City cannot advertise any tobacco products within 500 feet of a school.

However, Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne found a smoke shop doing just that on East 170th Street. According to a map, the store is within 300 feet of The Walton Avenue School, which is around the corner.

The man behind the counter at the smoke shop told Kristin Thorne he wasn't aware of the health law, but would remove all the tobacco tins from his front window.

Eyewitness News showed video of the tobacco tins to the New York State Health Department. A spokesperson responded that the tobacco products placed in the windows in plain sight from the street would be considered advertising and is a violation of the public health law.

"Tobacco use continues to be a serious public health issue and New York State is committed to implementing public health protections that promote the health and well-being of all New Yorkers and is a national leader in tobacco control policies," the spokesperson said.

When Eyewitness News first visited a smoke shop on Courtlandt Avenue, it was called Puff Puff Pass.It was within 400 feet of a school. When we went back a while later, the store had changed its name to 606 Deli Grocery. A court had issued a temporary restraining order against Puff Puff Pass for unlicensed sale of cannabis. The court also ordered the store to change the type of store that it is. The man working inside told us the store is complying with the order and the entire place is being converted into a grocery store.

ALSO READ | 2 arrested after deadly fentanyl exposure at Bronx day care

Two individuals, the owner of the home-based day care and a tenant, have been charged after a one-year-old died and three children were hospitalized. Darla Miles reports.


DO YOU NEED A STORY INVESTIGATED? Dan Krauth, Kristin Thorne, and the 7 On Your Side Investigates team at Eyewitness News want to hear from you! Call our confidential tip line 1-877-TIP-NEWS (847-6397) or fill out the form BELOW.