Since August, Newton High School Resource Officer Brian Foster has written 10 citations alone for e-cigs, compared to 14 citations for cigarettes.
That’s despite the fact that minors have been banned from using these products since July 1 of last year. Parents and other adults not only need to be aware of kids using cigarettes, but now e-cigs and vapor pens also, Foster said.
Students have been caught in the bathroom, during or between classes, using e-cigs, he said.
“Even as police officers, we knew it’s not good for kids to have, but there was no way for us to do anything about it in the past. Now it is banned and you can’t have it on school property even if you are an adult,” Foster said.
Foster has also found problems on school buses.
A camera once caught a student pulling something out of a backpack with a big puff of smoke appearing seconds later. There was video evidence of the cloud of smoke dissipating very quickly with many other students on the school bus using the vape pen. All of these students were given citations, which begin at $50 and increase up to $250 for a third offense.
Foster said the only sign of kids using e-cigs and vape pens are when they act suspicious; otherwise, there is no sure way to know. The clouds of smoke produced from these products disappear in less than 10 seconds, and there are no lingering odors like a normal cigarette. However, Foster knows it can be an itch for students to play with them, much like a pen; students may favor one side or act in a peculiar way craving the e-cig or vape pen.
Not only have Foster and others in Newton schools noticed problems with e-cigs and vape pens, but small businesses have had issues as well.
Fresh Start E-Cigs and Vapors, 116 First Ave. E., is having issues with minors, in terms of confusion about new tobacco products and underage possession laws. On its door, a sign reads, “Minors under the age of 18 are subject to fines and community service if found using, attempting to purchase or in possession of tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products.”
The Newton Police Department, the schools and even Fresh Start are working together to fight the problems among minors using e-cigs and vape pens. However, those who are 18 and older use these products as a healthier option to cigarettes, said Fresh Start Owner Debra Simmons.
Simmons said her establishment celebrated one year as a business March 31, and is always being recommended by customers as a safer, more comfortable place to purchase e-cigs and vape pens. Besides these products, the store offers mods, drip tanks, replacement tips and premium juices for those to fight their addiction to smoking.
Simmons said she constantly has people sharing their great news of celebrating anniversaries of stopping smoking, and she hopes more people give them a chance as an alternative, healthier option to cigarettes. However, if one is a minor, he or she cannot buy the products. Even minors who are accompanying adults in the store are asked to be seated away from the store’s products.
Simmons began her business after realizing what cigarettes could do to her, and what they had done to her family.
“I chose to do this because I have tried for 44 years to quit smoking ... I tried everything possible and it didn’t work,” Simmons said. “I wanted to quit because I saw my dad die of heart disease related to smoking, my mom die of heart disease related to smoking and my aunt die of lung cancer due to smoking. I saw the complications to health as I got older so I wanted to start to help people get off their addiction to cigarettes.”
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