Berkley looking to curb rise of vaping with young people

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 12, 2019

 The Berkley City Council introduced an ordinance amendment March 4 that it hopes will curb the rise of vaping among teenagers by stating that all nicotine products are prohibited to be sold to or used by people under the age of 18.

The Berkley City Council introduced an ordinance amendment March 4 that it hopes will curb the rise of vaping among teenagers by stating that all nicotine products are prohibited to be sold to or used by people under the age of 18.

Photo provided by Andrew Hadfield

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BERKLEY — As more young people are using vape pens, the Berkley City Council introduced an ordinance amendment in hopes of curbing the rise of vaping among teenagers.

At its March 4 meeting, the council held the first reading of an amendment to the city’s ordinance for the possession and use of cigarettes, tobacco and nicotine products by minors, as well as the sale of those products to minors. 

The changes widen the definition so that all nicotine products are prohibited to be sold to or used by people under the age of 18. 

“We looked at our ordinances. I looked at a couple different versions of this and thought the best way to send the message that this was a serious offense was to expand the current section we have specific to the possession and sale of tobacco, and to expand it to include also nicotine products,” City Manager Matt Baumgarten said.

The ordinance changes arose after Berkley School District Superintendent Dennis McDavid reached out to the council to see if there was anything the city could do on this matter.

McDavid told the Woodward Talk that the district has seen both high school and middle school students trying out vaping.

“We’re seeing more kids vaping, and my concern is that I think the kids think that there’s nothing harmful about this, and yet there’s a pretty good body of evidence from a lot of researchers (that) this is harmful to teenagers and youngsters, to their brains and their development,” he said.

McDavid said they need to educate the students on these substances that they’re inhaling and cause them to think about “long-term risk.”

For any minor who violates the ordinance, they would be given a municipal civil infraction, which is punishable by up to a $100 fine. The sale of a product to minors, however, is a misdemeanor and can be punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.

“We did set it up for the minor who violates that we did it as a civil infraction, feeling that at least initially coming down with a misdemeanor violation’s a little bit heavy on the minors,” City Attorney John Staran said. “Whereas for people actually selling, furnishing the vaping products to the minors, we should come down heavier, and those are prescribed to be misdemeanor violations.”

Mayor Dan Terbrack said that the rise of vaping with young people is “certainly an epidemic,” and that the city has heard from parents and residents on this issue before.

“Not only have we heard from a number of residents on this issue, but the superintendent has certainly seen a stark increase in the use of these products, and it’s definitely something that we need to address,” he said. “If there’s a way we can add some additional — hopefully — deterrence or prevention to this, I think we need to take those steps.”

Because this was the first reading of the ordinance amendment, the City Council will hold the second reading at its next meeting, currently scheduled for March 18. The council approved the first reading 7-0.

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