School Officials Classify Ecigarettes As Drug Paraphernalia
America’s schools are cracking down on electronic cigarettes these days as fears grow that teens are using the devices for more than nicotine. Some vaporizers can be used with illegal substances and while that is not the purpose behind their design, some teens are abusing ecigs and it’s causing a major problem for many school systems.
Some schools have classified electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, punishing students caught vaping with the same consequences they would receive for using analog cigarettes. But schools in North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, and New Jersey are cracking down on vapers and treating the devices as drug paraphernalia. Under these new rules, students caught with ecigs could face suspensions, drug testing, and negative remarks on their permanent records.
In Connecticut, Sarah D’Annolfo, dean of students at the Taft School in Watertown, said administrators are being proactive to stop ecigs from coming onto school property. They are now treating ecigs as drug devices with similar consequences. “Our goal is to reduce access and discourage use on campus,” she said. “It definitely sparks conversation within the school community about e-cigarette use and the possible dangers and the possible benefits. That conversation alone is a hugely important learning opportunity.”
Ecig supporters have argued that it’s unfair for schools to treat ecigs as drug paraphernalia. Gregory Conley, from the American Vaping Association, called this “pure over-reaction” and said students should not be punished more severely for vaping than for using tobacco cigarettes.
Anne Garrett, superintendent of North Carolina’s Haywood County Schools, said that school officials don’t want to risk overlooking a potentially dangerous problem and so they are erring on the side of caution and treating ecigs as drug devices. “We don’t know if it’s vapor or some kind of hash oil or if it’s some kind of illegal substance,” Garrett explained.
Currently, it’s up to individual school districts to set their own policies regarding ecigarettes. The National Association of State Boards of Education has no ecig policy at this time. Executive Director Kristen Amundson said she thinks it is best to classify the devices as tobacco products, but if schools are having a major problem with students using ecigs on campus, then a harsher approach might be necessary.
How do you think schools should classify electronic cigarettes? Should they be treated as tobacco devices, drug paraphernalia, or have a category all of their own?