Ordinance prohibits vape products in schools, selling to minors

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published November 5, 2018

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Farmington officials changed a city ordinance to treat vaping like cigarettes and tobacco with regard to purchasing and usage, particularly on school property.

The City Council unanimously approved the tobacco ordinance change Oct. 15.

“At our last meeting this month, we passed an updated ordinance that treats  vaping the same as cigarettes/tobacco with regard to permitted location use and sales. Obviously, this includes a banned use in the two city of Farmington schools, Longacre Elementary (School) and Farmington High School,” Mayor Pro Tem Sara Bowman said in a follow-up email.

The fine for sales to minors increased from $50 to $250, she said.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teens are now more likely to use e-cigarettes than cigarettes. Teenage e-cigarette users are more likely to start smoking cigarettes in comparison to ones who don’t use e-cigarettes.

According to a City Council document, vaping is the inhaling and exhaling of vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.

Farmington Public Safety Director Frank Demers said during the Oct. 15 meeting that vaping among young people is a problem in and around the schools, and it “disrupts the teaching environment.”

“Vaping among the youth in our community is a growing problem,” Demers said.

In Michigan, the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products is governed by state law.

The Youth Tobacco Act, Public Act 31 of 1915, prohibits the sale of tobacco products to a minor. The law also prohibits a minor from purchasing, possessing or using tobacco products.

Per the act, vape and e-cigarette devices are not part of that “tobacco product” definition because of the lack of nicotine. According to city officials, pending legislation could add vaping to the definition at the state level. The federal law prohibits the sale of vape/e-cigarette products to minors.

According to a Farmington Public Safety Department press release, the previous local ordinance only included regulations for the underage use and sale of tobacco products.

Diane Bauman, Farmington Public Schools’ director of school and community relations, said in an email that the school district is in the process of revising its code of conduct to specifically speak to vaping.

“Currently, vaping falls under the categories of ‘use and possession of tobacco product’ or ‘possession of inappropriate personal property,’” she said in the email. “Vaping has always been prohibited at all of our schools. In the event that a student engages in vaping, a school response is initiated.”

Bauman said that the response is dependent on the specific situation and the individual student’s behaviors both present and past.

The Farmington Public Safety Department press release states that the amended ordinance now prohibits the use or possession tobacco and nicotine/vape products on school property, including outdoor school venues and athletic fields, and the use or possession of tobacco and nicotine/vape products by a person under the age of 18 anywhere in the city.

Bauman said that when it comes to disciplinary actions with a student caught vaping on campus, the district’s hope is that exclusion from school will not be “necessary.”

“Ideally, responses to student behavioral ‘problems’ should help the student learn and then avoid similar situations in the future. For example, if a student was vaping, we could assign the student a diversionary event, which might include developing an understanding of the short- and long-term health risks associated with vaping,” she said.

Demers said in the release that until now, the department had no way to enforce underage use and possession of vape products.

“We also lacked authority to hold vendors accountable for selling vape products to minors,” he said. “With the passage of this amended ordinance, we now have a means to help eliminate the underage use and abuse of vape products in our schools and in public. We also hope that we can educate our youth about the health issues associated with nicotine addiction, as well as the dangers of inhaling the many volatile chemicals that are often added (to) vape oils.”

Farmington Hills City Manager David Boyer said that last month, the Farmington Hills City Council met during a study session to discuss amending its present ordinance to include “offenses concerning underage persons, sale, furnishing or possession of tobacco or nicotine products,” he said.  “Adding additional definitions to include vape, electronic cigarettes and nicotine products. Council will revisit in the near future.”

Boyer said this month that there are no updates presently, but the topic will go back to the council for discussion Nov. 12 or 26.

For more information, go to www.ci.farmington.mi.us or fhgov.com/home.aspx.

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