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October 22, 2014

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School District bans e-cigarettes from campuses

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Paul Takahashi

A wick for nicotine and flavored juices is shown being heated on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, at The Vapery, a local vapor shop located at 8060 S. Rainbow Road. The rise in e-cigarette use among young adults and teenagers is a growing concern among health officials, who have long waged a public health campaign against smoking.

The Clark County School Board unanimously moved Thursday to begin banning e-cigarettes from its 357 school campuses and athletic fields.

School and health officials have noticed a growing number of Las Vegas teenagers experimenting with electronic cigarettes, raising concerns about its health effects.

A national survey released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1.8 million high school and middle school students had tried e-cigarettes in 2012 — double the number of student users in 2011.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that vaporize liquid nicotine into an aerosol mist that can be inhaled, or “vaped.” The federal Food and Drug Administration announced this week it will begin regulating e-cigarettes.

“We had been concerned with the increase of e-cigarettes and vapor cigarettes,” Clark County Schools Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said.

Skorkowsky said two other district policies must be revised to implement the ban, which the School Board is expected to vote on in May. If approved, any “tobacco devices” — including e-cigarettes — are banned from school district property, including classrooms and athletic fields. The ban extends to students, teachers and staff.

The School District, which once had one of the highest teen smoking rates nationally, already has a traditional cigarette and cigar smoking ban on campuses.

Health officials from the Southern Nevada Health District and the American Lung Association spoke in favor of the proposed ban.

“E-cigarettes are perceived to be harm-reducing, but there’s no reliable science to substantiate this claim,” Maria Azzarelli, the Health District’s tobacco-control program coordinator, said. “E-cigarettes are nicotine-delivery devices.”

School Board members said they were supportive of the proposed ban, which they said reinforces the efforts of decades of anti-smoking campaigns. As a result, about 8 percent of Clark County students use tobacco today.

“I’m thrilled to see this come through,” School Board member Deanna Wright said. “But what I don’t want to create is a (smoking) corner across from every high school.”

Skorkowsky replied that the district has no jurisdiction beyond the schoolyard gates.

“(An e-cigarette ban outside of school) would be an unenforceable policy since it’s not district property,” he said.

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