Janesville School Board to consider banning e-cigarettes

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Nick Crow
Friday, April 25, 2014

JANESVILLE —On the heels of the Food and Drug Administration proposing its first regulations for e-cigarettes this week, the Janesville School District is looking to ban the devices on school grounds.

Electronic cigarettes, the increasingly popular method of smoking in which nicotine is inhaled through water vapor, would be banned in all district buildings, grounds and vehicles if the school board approves the measure at its next meeting.

The district's personnel/policy/curriculum committee unanimously approved moving the measure to the full board this week.

"To ensure we stay up-to-date with tobacco prevention, we need to make changes to include that," Yolanda Cargile, director of at-risk and multicultural programs, told the committee.

Committee member Kristin Hesselbacher said changing the policy's language is meant to tackle e-cigarettes as well as future substitutes for cigarettes.

"We want this so there's no questions from students about what's allowed and not allowed," Hesselbacher said. "We do specify electronic cigarettes. That's what we wanted to get to."

The Beloit School District unanimously passed similar regulations for its schools this month, said Barbara Buffington, executive director of pupil services.

"Since we started the process of passing this, other districts have been asking for our template, so I know it's becoming the trend," Buffington said. "We're excited school districts statewide are addressing this issue."

The federal government is looking into regulations on the sale and manufacture of e-cigarettes, according to an Associated Press report.

The Food and Drug Administration wouldn't immediately regulate the product but would set the foundation for regulating e-cigarettes and their marketing, according to the Associated Press report.

"When finalized, (the proposal) would result in significant public health benefits, including through reducing sales to youth, helping to correct consumer misperceptions, preventing misleading health claims and preventing new products from entering the market without scientific review by FDA," Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, told the Associated Press.

E-cigarettes are plastic or metal tubes, usually the size of cigarettes, that heat a liquid nicotine solution instead of burning tobacco. The heat creates a vapor that is then inhaled, according to the Associated Press.

Advocates of e-cigarettes say they are less harmful than conventional cigarettes and wean smokers off cigarettes.

Opponents say the vapors can contain heavy metals and other toxins that include nicotine, flavoring, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol, according to the Associated Press.

Debbie Fischer, director of Youth2Youth of Rock County and the Southwest Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, said she is concerned about the health effects of e-cigarettes and applauds local school districts for being proactive.

"It's a very positive thing," Fischer said. "There have been many reports lately about the dangers of e-cigarettes. It's a positive move. It makes sense."

Fischer said her coalition is "definitely in the business of youth tobacco use," and she said the goal is to keep youth from becoming addicted to nicotine, regardless of how it's used.

"When the smoke-free law was passed, we never thought there would be anything like e-cigarettes," Fischer said. "Last year, we saw a 50 percent increase in e-cigarette use among teens in Wisconsin. Research shows they are not helping people to quit. In fact, nicotine isn't regulated in them, so they aren't decreasing use at all. It may be even increasing."

Wisconsin passed smoke-free legislation in 2009, but the measure has no mention of e-cigarettes.

"Not allowing them near schools is a real plus," Fischer said. "This shows parents the schools care about the health of their children."

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