Cedar Park mulls e-cig ban for minors
The city of Cedar Park may soon join a growing list of communities nationwide that are banning the sale, distribution and possession of e-cigarettes among minors. The Cedar Park City Council held a first public hearing to discuss the proposal at its June 26 council meeting.
Electronic cigarettes, often called e-cigarettes or just e-cigs, are battery-operated devices designed to look like regular tobacco cigarettes. Like their conventional counterparts, electronic cigarettes contain nicotine. An atomizer heats a liquid containing nicotine, turning it into a vapor that can be inhaled and creating a vapor cloud that resembles cigarette smoke.
Currently, there are no federal or state regulations on e-cigarettes. Marketed as having flavors like popcorn and bubblegum, they have quickly grown in popularity among middle school and high school students.
“I have five teenagers and this is a hot issue,” said council member Corbin Van Arsdale.
He said legislation has been filed both in Congress and at the state level just in the last few weeks regarding the topic. Just last week, the city of Kyle implemented a similar ordinance.
According to data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of middle and high school students in the United States who have used e-cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. The survey found that the percentage of high school students who said they had used an e-cigarette jumped from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2012. Nearly 3 percent of those students said they had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, up from 1.5 percent a year earlier. Use also doubled among middle school students, the CDC reported.
Even more troubling is that kids are often putting even more dangerous substances in the devices, Van Arsdale said.
“We don’t know what they’re putting in there,” he said. “There are kids who are putting THC and hash oil in these pipes and actually smoking them in school. Because it’s not marijuana, you can’t smell the fragrance. I talked to the school district and they do not have any policy against it. They are working on a policy that treats it as a tobacco product. I would make the case that this is worse than a tobacco product in some ways.”
Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix said he had a meeting with the FBI last week regarding the use of illicit substances in e-cigarettes.
“I was educated on a process where they are using butane to filter the oils out of marijuana plants, and turning it into what they call honey oil and then smoking it with the vaping devices,” Mannix said.
Cedar Park resident Trey Hensley, who first brought the issue before the council, said he is concerned for the safety of his two children.
“My 11-year-old daughter told me one of her classmates was smoking an ‘Njoy’ e-cigarette,” he said. “For a 5th grader to have access to this, I strongly encourage you to consider the ban on this for our children. It’s not just about being able to purchase them but it’s about being in possession of them.”
The item will proceed to a second public hearing.
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