Clark County School District Moves to Ban E-cigarette Use

By: Trevon Milliad, Las Vegas Review Journal, April 2014

While smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products on Clark County School District campuses is prohibited, the use of e-cigarettes is allowed because of a loophole in the district’s smoking policy, which officials began closing Thursday.

The problem is that e-cigarettes don’t fall under the definition of “smoking” or “tobacco products” prohibited under a Clark County School District policy last revised in 2004.

Electronic cigarettes, booming in popularity and unregulated by the federal government, vaporize a nicotine-laced water into an aerosol inhaled by users. Critics have said manufacturers are marketing the cigarette alternative to youth, providing flavors such as bubble gum, cotton candy and chocolate.

While the Food and Drug Administration proposed federal regulations Thursday that would include banning sale of these popular devices to anyone under 18, the district’s issue – addressed that same day – is largely with adults found using e-cigarettes on campuses, not students.

District staff and adults on school grounds have been using e-cigarettes, said Chief Human Resources Officer Staci Vesneske.

“Regardless of whether there’s secondhand smoke or not, we don’t want it around kids,” said Vesneske, emphasizing that the district “should be careful” in the absence of research about e-cigarette’s health effects.

School Board member Chris Garvey acknowledged that the district can’t control employee actions off school grounds.

“But we need to have conversations with employees about being responsible for their actions while in the eyes of children,” she said.

Lynn Row, the district’s director of nursing, said she’s unaware of cases on campus dealing with student use of e-cigarettes.

“I’m not aware of it being a huge issue” among students, Row said.

But the district shouldn’t wait for federal regulations to address e-cigarettes, she said.

“Teens, being teens, think because it’s an e-cigarette it’s not harmful to them, that it’s not ‘smoking,’” she said. “It’s still nicotine.”

The Clark County School Board took a first look at the proposed policy changes on Thursday to specifically prohibit the “use of an ‘e-cigarette’ which creates a vapor, in any manner or in any form, or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking in this policy.”

In addition to this policy change planned to be approved by the School Board in May, Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said the district will have to make two other changes to employee and student regulations.

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