Lehigh Valley schools fear the growing use of e-cigarettes by students – The Express-Times

Pennsylvania minors can’t walk into a Wawa and buy packs of cigarettes, but there is nothing stopping them from buying electronic cigarettes from a store.

There’s no Pennsylvania law banning the sale of the devices to minors, leaving school districts scrambling to update tobacco policies to explicitly prohibit the devices as they grow in popularity.

The number of U.S. middle and high school students using e-cigarettes more than doubled from 2011-12, rising from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide more than 1.78 million middle and high school students tried e-cigarettes in 2012.

And about 76 percent of the middle and high school students who had used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days also smoked conventional cigarettes, the CDC said.

Saucon Valley School District Superintendent Sandra Fellin says her district updated its policy to make it very clear e-cigarettes fall under the tobacco products ban. Students report they’re trying to quit smoking real cigarettes and turning to an e-habit, she says.

“They have been showing up in the high school,” she says of the devices.

The district has treated any incidents with e-cigs the same as other tobacco products because they have nicotine and the appearance and smoke of traditional cigarettes, Fellin says.

“We don’t want to encourage smoking,” she says.

The Bethlehem Area School District hasn’t had issues with students bringing them on campus but they aren’t permitted, Superintendent Joseph Roy says.

“I haven’t seen one,” Freedom High School Principal Michael LaPorta says.

In 2010, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and their use in public places or workplaces.

Pennsylvania legislators are working on a law banning the sale of e-cigs to anyone under 18. E-cigarettes are not classified as tobacco products so they do not fall under existing state law, explained Steve DeFrank, Sen. Lisa Boscola’s chief of staff.

A Pennsylvania Senate committee in December endorsed Sen. Tim Solobay’s bill that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Boscola is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Boscola has heard from folks, such as the Pennsylvania Medical Society, asking her to support the law, DeFrank said.

The proposed law is currently before the full state Senate but no action has been taken on it yet, according to DeFrank. So far, 28 states have similar prohibitions on sales to minors, he says.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about the long-term use of electronic cigarettes,” Solobay, D- Washington County, says in a statement. “Growing use by minors is an alarming trend that must be stopped.”

E-cigarettes have a battery-powered coil that heats a nicotine solution into an inhalable vapor that can be flavored, explains Alysha Allen, assistant manager for the Bethlehem branch of Lehigh Vapor in Main Street Commons.

“Legally speaking, there is no precedent that limits its sales to minors,” Allen says. “I could sell a device with zero nicotine, no problem. At our store, we enforce an 18-year-or-older policy based on our own moral judgment.”

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes but is working on proposed regulations for the devices. The FDA notes on its website that e-cigarettes have not been fully studied so users don’t know the risks associated with use, how much nicotine or other chemicals are inhaled while vaping — as smoking an e-cigarette is called — and whether there are benefits to the devices.

“It is not known if e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death,” the FDA notes on its website.

E-cigs helped Allen quit smoking and she feels better vaping rather than smoking a real cigarette. The liquid that is vaporized is a mix of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine and the level of nicotine and flavoring the customer desires, Allen says. E-cigarettes don’t have to contain nicotine.

Allen supports limiting the sale of e-cigarettes to adults and has no issue with regulating where they can be used, she says. Lehigh Vapor is one of the few retail stores in the region selling e-cigarettes but it is easy for those under 18 to head online to buy them, Allen says.

“I wish online vendors would be more responsible,” Allen says. “But it is hard. How do you control that?”

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

Powered by WPeMatico

This entry was posted in Vaporizer E-Cigarette Stocks News and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.