District 158 to ban electronic cigarettes on campuses

Posted4/3/2014 5:30 AM
  • Huntley School District 158 is considering banning electronic cigarettes, such as these blucigs, after seeing students use them on school campuses.

    Huntley School District 158 is considering banning electronic cigarettes, such as these blucigs, after seeing students use them on school campuses. Associated Press

The days of "The Marlboro Man" might be long gone, yet a new wave of advertising with electronic cigarettes is bringing back the idea that it's cool to smoke.

And teenagers are once again falling for it, say officials at Huntley School District 158 who are considering a ban on electronic cigarettes on campus.

The district has seen an increase in students using and possessing alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, at Huntley High School and even some middle schools.

"It's just starting to become a problem, and we are trying to nip it in the bud," said Terry Awrey, District 158 associate superintendent. "Over 40 years ago, they took the commercials off for cigarettes, and now they are doing it again with e-cigarettes."

Advertisers are trying to make e-cigarettes attractive to younger audiences by introducing them in different flavors, he added.

Several suburban towns -- including Hanover Park, Huntley and Mount Prospect -- have either banned or are considering banning the sale of electronic cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products to minors.

Per the policy being considered by District 158, students caught using, possessing, distributing, purchasing or selling alternative nicotine products could face suspension and even expulsion, which is the same punishment students face when they're caught with alcohol, marijuana and other illegal drugs or controlled substances on school grounds.

The punishment for breaking the rules will differ based on whether it's the student's first, second or repeated offense, and whether the child has disciplinary issues, Awrey said.

"At the high school, of course, it is illegal," Awrey said. "We do have a school resource officer there and the kids are ticketed. That helps as a deterrent also."

The proposed policy already has been reviewed by the district's policy committee and was greenlighted by the school board on first reading in March.

Awrey said students are warned about the dangers of cigarette smoking in health education class, but now also are being informed about the hazards of electronic cigarettes and the legalities of using them.

"It was time to update our policy," he said. "The next thing we need to make sure we do is get it into all of the student handbooks."

At the start of each school year, principals go over the policy handbook with students to make them aware of the rules.

Teens smoking traditional cigarettes is still a larger concern than electronic cigarettes, but the use of the latter will only continue to grow, Awrey said.

"We've been very fortunate where there's only been a few circumstances where kids have tested the waters," Awrey said. "We have cracked down on (traditional cigarettes) pretty hard, and again we are pretty fortunate that our kids have learned not to bring it into the school."

The District 158 school board is expected to approve the policy change April 17 and it will go into effect immediately.

"We're just trying to be proactive," Awrey said. "(Manufacturers) are coming up with different types of electronic smoking devices all the time. We made our policy broad enough to cover any alternative (cigarette) device that we don't know about yet."

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