Vaping has made headlines nationwide after the act has been linked to the deaths of six individuals throughout the country in recent weeks.
Concerned about vaping rates in Albany County schools, the education subcommittee of the Albany County Community Juvenile Service Board discussed ways to both educate and deter students from the habit in a recent meeting.
Ideas included partnering with the schools to improve reporting and referral to the county’s juvenile drug education programs as well as potentially changing state or city statute to make the electronic device itself illegal for minors, not just the potential nicotine or marijuana inside the cartridge.
Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent explained during the meeting the wording change would make it to where the liquid being inhaled would not have to be tested by law enforcement for nicotine, which is currently illegal for minors, as well as THC, which is the chemical in marijuana that makes you high, before determining if the minor has broken the law.
“We can’t have another school year where we’re having the volume that we’re seeing of use of these devices,” Trent said during the subcommittee’s meeting. “To say no device to someone underage makes the assumption they are doing something with tobacco or any other substance that is of similar nature.”
Currently, the city’s ordinance barring minors from possessing or using tobacco within city limits includes e-cigarettes as a tobacco product.
Statewide, Wyoming statute also makes it “unlawful” for a person under 18 years old to “to possess or use any tobacco products,” which includes e-cigarettes and “any product made or derived from tobacco that contains nicotine.”
Trent noted one potential option would be to request an Attorney General’s opinion on e-cigarettes and whether the device itself, not necessarily the nicotine it might contain, would fall under the definition of tobacco products.
Trent said whatever solution they choose, the goal is to address vaping in Albany County both from a prevention perspective but also from an enforcement perspective because vaping is already here.
According to a prevention needs assessment completed by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center in 2017, 2% of sixth graders, 13% of eighth graders and 36% of 10th graders surveyed in Albany County had used an e-cigarette product in the last 30 days.
In their lifetimes, 5% of sixth graders, 19% of eighth graders and 25% of 10th graders in Albany County reported using e-cigarettes.
The subcommittee’s discussion about vaping during its Aug. 28 meeting came just two weeks before the Wyoming Department of Health announced the first case of vaping-related lung illness in the state, a young adult in Uinta County.
Trent was even more ahead of the curve, pitching the creation of a vaping prevention and education program to the Laramie Youth Council during its pitch day last fall.
The Youth Council chose Trent’s pitch, although the group hasn’t made any decisions yet on what their contribution will look like.
Youth Council Vice-Chair Sam Miller said the group is still brainstorming ways its members can be involved with the effort, including lobbying potential bills or creating an education initiative like the council’s recently released recycling video.
“We think it’s really important to make sure that we get the word out that it’s not necessarily a safe option, which a lot of people think it is,” Miller told the Boomerang.
Youth Council Chair Arudanthi Nair noted while education is needed, the council also can’t ignore prevention and increased consequences for the students already vaping, liking vaping detectors in key areas like bathrooms.
“They’re getting really gutsy about it,” Nair told the Boomerang. “They don’t even just do it in the bathrooms, they do it in class in between teachers looking at the whiteboard and looking away.”