Chambers County Schools beef up language in terms of e-cigarettes

Published 5:28 pm Monday, August 26, 2019

LaFAYETTE — Chambers County School District campuses will be completely smoke-free in the 2019-2020 school year.

The Chambers County Board of Education made an amendment to its code of conduct this past Wednesday to ban all e-cigarettes and vaping products on its campuses and athletic facilities.

“If we require it of our students, we have to require of our staff as well,” Superintendent Kelli Hodge said. “We have had this in our code for three or four years but the policy just said tobacco.”

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The campuses have been tobacco-free for several years but since e-cigarettes and vaping products don’t use tobacco, the policy in the code of conduct didn’t cover it. Hodge said e-cigarettes are considered a nicotine product and have become popular more recently.

“It was just a matter of getting policy caught up,” she said.

Hodge said the district has ordered signs to be placed around the schools and athletic facilities.

E-cigarette product use by high school students has been on the rise over the past few years.

In 2018, e-cigarette use among high school students rose by 78 percent, and more than 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes — an increase of 1.5 million students in one year, according to a survey from the National Youth Tobacco Survey.

If a student is caught with an e-cigarette, there is a progressive punishment cycle.

First, the student’s parents are called, and there is a conference with the school, according to the district’s code of conduct.

The second time they are caught with a device, there could be more disciplinary action such as detention, in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension.

Hodge told the Valley Times-News in early August that a device called JUUL has been a popular item with students because it looks like a flash drive and is easy to hide.

She said education could be the key to teaching not only students about the harmful effects of e-cigarette usage but also reaching the parents to know what to look for.

Additionally, Hodge said students aren’t just using vape devices for nicotine but also synthetic marijuana.

“It is more about educating,” she said. “We are going to have to find a way to better educate our parents and the population in general.”

Alabama’s vaping laws changed as of Aug.1 to provide oversight and regulation for retailers who sell vape and alternative nicotine products.

According to the new law, vape shops will now require a tobacco license and cannot promote vaping and other alternative nicotine products as healthy options to replace smoking.

Also, the law puts e-cigarettes and vape products under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, while restricting the sale of vaping products to anyone under 19 years old.

The law says violation of this law could result in a fine of up to $300 and 30 days in jail.

The new law also prohibits advertising of vaping products near schools or the opening of a vape shop within 1,000 feet of a school, childcare facility, church, youth center or public library, playground or park.

Finally, the law limits billboard advertising for vaping liquid to only offer three flavors — tobacco, mint or menthol.