For decades schools have battled tobacco and drug use by students, and the newest challenge facing schools is “vaping” or the use of e-cigarettes by students. E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices which emit doses of vaporized nicotine or non-nicotine substances, which the user inhales.
In just a few years the use of these “smokeless” devices has exploded in popularity among teenagers, as they have a strong presence on social media and have been marketed with fun-sounding names and flavors geared strongly toward a younger audience.
Vaping presents a unique challenge to schools because of its more discreet nature as compared to regular cigarettes. While e-cigarettes emit a substantial amount of vapor, students have found ways to attempt to conceal the vapor (which may not have an easily-detectable odor), such as wearing baggy sweat shirts into which they exhale or using “vape bags” to trap and conceal the vapor. Newer types of e-cigarettes, such as JUUL Vaporizers, are the size of and look like USB flash drives, which make them very easy to conceal.
New Jersey has classified e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, and prohibited the sale of such products to anyone under the age of 21. All smoking, including vaping, is prohibited on school grounds.
So, what are school districts doing to stop the use of electronic cigarettes?
New Jersey school laws and regulations lay out a lengthy and comprehensive set of requirements that all Boards of Education must include in their drug, tobacco, alcohol and other substance abuse policy. These requirements include student intervention, training staff to recognizing the use of such substances, and training staff on their role and obligations to reporting use or suspected use of restricted substances by students.
The use of electronic cigarettes in schools should be given the same level of attention in official Board Policies as any other drug, alcohol, or tobacco product. Boards should take a look at their existing policies and consider whether the use of electronic cigarettes is addressed properly, and should strongly consider amending existing school policies to include a comprehensive plan to address the use of electronic cigarettes specifically.
For more information and guidance on this topic, please contact the attorneys in Parker McCay’s Public Schools and Education Department.
The content of this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion. You should consult a lawyer concerning your specific situation and any specific legal question you may have.