Vaping is a term used to describe the use of e-cigarettes rather than traditional tobacco products, and it’s an increasingly serious problem in Connecticut schools.
Concerns about vaping center on the fact that e-cigarettes produce an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor, consisting of fine particles. Some of the particles contain toxic chemicals which have been linked to cancer, respiratory ailments, and heart disease. The problem is so serious that the American Academy of Pediatrics is now warning of the dangers.
Federal officials claim that over 3 million U.S. high school kids now vape – overtaking the popularity of tobacco. It’s also reported that significant numbers of middle-schoolers (perhaps as many as 6% of that population) do as well.
A recent study from the University of Michigan and University of Minnesota found that 21 percent of U.S. high school seniors reported vaping in the past 30 days — the largest year-over-year increase for any substance ever recorded by the 44-year study.
One of the most popular e-cigarette products is called Juul. It even comes in kid-friendly flavors like “fruit medley” and is packaged to look like a flash drive that can fit into the palm of the hand.
Each Juul cartridge contains the same level of nicotine as 20 cigarettes. The addictive nature of nicotine is widely acknowledged.
Now, while federal health officials, including the FDA, grapple with regulating these devices, Connecticut schools are on the front lines of efforts to stem their use.
The problem is very real.
According to the Connecticut State Board of Education, there’s been a six-fold increase in the number of suspensions and expulsions related to vaping in Connecticut schools, from 349 disciplinary actions taken in the 2015-16 school year to 2,160 last year.
The problem is so severe that the state Board of Education has asked local boards of health, mental health, and addiction services personnel to help school systems respond to and manage the problem.
Now the state legislature is getting involved with legislation that seeks to place further restrictions on e-cigarettes while attempting to curb youth access to these products.
The Connecticut legislature’s Public Health Committee is particularly focused on raising the age for use of e-cigarette and tobacco products. Other measures under consideration include increasing fines and penalties for the illegal sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products to underage people, prohibiting flavored vapor product marketing to minors, and banning smoking and vaping on beaches.
In the meantime, administrators in Connecticut’s schools battle on.
Are harsher penalties for vaping the answer? The prospect of that makes many educators uneasy.
Kainen, Escalera & McHale is one of the largest employer defense law firms in Connecticut dedicated to school law. We do one thing and one thing alone – we represent employers and only employers. What’s more, each of our attorneys have over 25 years of experience in school, employment, and labor law matters and can provide your organization with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please contact us if we can help you.
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