With the turning of the calendar to 2014, so comes a myriad of new state laws, including one that will ban the sale of alternative nicotine products, such as electronic cigarettes, to those under the age of 18.
The new law went into effect Jan. 1.
“Within the Village of Barrington, it will be against village ordinance to sell to and/or possess the products by minors,” Barrington Chief of Police David Dorn said. “This ordinance will go into effect on Jan. 1, as well. Minors found in possession of these products may be cited. If they are cited, they will receive a court date which will include a fine and/or community service.”
Dorn said the Barrington Police Department has noticed an increase in use of e-cigarettes among minors, which matches a growing trend nationwide.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additives to the user in an aerosol vapor form.
At Barrington High School, Chief Communications Officer Jeff Arnett said they have not had a significant problem with e-cigarettes in the school, though they have had a few instances of students having the items at school.
“They’re a bit of a novelty for students because they’re a new product,” Arnett said.
However, prior to the state law, Barrington High School already had a policy against student’s having such items at school.
E-cigarettes are prohibited under the provision of “cigarette look-alikes” within the district’s policies and have not been allowed in a student’s possession or used on school property or at school-sponsored events.
“What changes now is the state law brings greater awareness to the issue,” Arnett said.
Local health-care professionals advise against the use of e-cigarettes.
“One of the issues with the e-cigarettes is they are not FDA regulated,” said Megan Sanders, a tobacco cessation specialist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington.
Sanders added that the cartridges in e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, and although the cartridge states how much nicotine it contains, there is no one regulating whether that is accurate.
Tobacco Cessation Specialist Danielle Rumachik said the e-cigarettes also still contain some of the same chemicals that are in regular cigarettes.
“There are less chemicals in an e-cigarette than in a cigarette, but we’re not sure of the long-term risks,” Sanders said. “That’s probably one of the problems, is the long-term effects have not been studied.”
The two agree that because these e-cigarettes are not regulated, they are not safe. Sanders added that teens are being drawn to e-cigarettes because companies offer vapors that have been flavored.
“It just leads them into other things,” Rumachik said. “The main thing is making sure they educate themselves.”
An additional concern to the school district is that the cartridge within an e-cigarette can be refilled with other products, such as illegal substances, that can be difficult to detect.
“One way is for the e-cigarette to be used for ingesting cannabis in a liquid or wax form,” Dorn said. “It is difficult to detect because the user gives the appearance that they are using nicotine instead of an illegal drug.
“Our officers are trained and experienced in detecting the different means used to ingest cannabis, and this is yet another way for the user to hide the use of an illegal substance.”
Dorn added that if someone is caught using an e-cigarette in that manner, it will carry the same penalties as the conventional possession of marijuana.