The efforts of several individuals who are concerned about minors’ access to electronic cigarettes and other vapor devices, as well as the display of drug paraphernalia, could pay off with new ordinances in Washougal.
Maddie Gregory, a senior at Washougal High School, told City Council members during their Feb. 9 workshop she is worried that most students do not know the effects of e-cigarettes and vape pens.
“The perception is they are not bad for you,” she said. “I’ve seen these vape pens all over the school. Harmful substances are being put into them.”
Gregory said students have been seen with vape pens in the school parking lot and in the back of classrooms.
“Teachers don’t know what is going on, because they look like pens,” she said. “Some look like USB thumb drives.”
Washougal School Resource Officer Ryan Castro said there have been instances where students used “vape” pens while riding the school bus and during lunch hours.
“It slowed down a bit since last year,” he said.
WHS is an open campus, so juniors and seniors with off campus passes can leave the school during lunch time.
“We also had reports that students vape in the bathrooms,” Castro said.
A proposed Washougal ordinance would prohibit the distribution or sale of vapor devices to people younger than 18. Possession of e-cigarettes or their components by minors would be prohibited.
Businesses that sell vapor devices would be required to display a printed sign, regarding the prohibitions. If no sign is posted, a warning would first be given to the business owner or other person in charge.
The ordinance under consideration would also prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and places of employment.
A minor that violates any of the provisions would be subject to a civil penalty of $250 per violation. A second violation for any person other than a minor would involve a civil fine of $500. A third and all subsequent violations, for people age 18 and older, would result in a civil fine of $1,000.
Enforcement could be provided by the Washougal Police Department, the code enforcement officer and the community development director or his designee.
A Clark County ordinance prohibits the sale of electronic vapor devices to youth younger than 18.
Joy Lyons, community prevention project coordinator for PREVENT! The Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Clark County, said, however, the devices are advertised and sold at malls and stores where youth shop.
She said there are no restrictions on advertising or placement, and no licensing requirements or compliance monitoring as is done with tobacco and alcohol retailers.
Lyons said electronic vapor devices do not emit smells or smoke.
“Anything you can do to limit and restrict access to youth of these products helps our youth and our community to be healthier and thriving,” she said, to City Council.
Lyons said vapor devices contain nicotine, and fruit and candy flavorings are used in the “vaped” liquids.
The devices, which can also contain marijuana, can look like flashlights or toys.
“The gadgets are attractive to youth,” Lyons said, after the workshop. “More youth are using e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes.
“The liquid is concentrated, poisonous nicotine,” she added. “It can get on skin or be ingested by mouth. It is not in a childproof container.”
Margaret McCarthy, coordinator of UNITE! Washougal Community Coalition, told council members that restricting access to harmful substances will make a difference for every youth in the community.
“Our youths’ amazing brains are still growing and developing, and they are depending on you to help them make healthy choices,” she said.
Councilman Paul Greenlee has urged fellow council members to develop a vapor device ordinance.
“I read an article about huge increases in emergency room visits for nicotine poisoning, both from vaping and from ingestion of the liquids,” he said.
Greenlee is involved in UNITE! Washougal Community Coalition.
“Because of UNITE, I keep my eyes, ears, and mind open to anything having to do with building a community of prevention,” he said.
Greenlee and McCarthy attended a session Friday, regarding how to develop local laws on e-cigarettes. It was organized by Deb Drandoff, assistant director of prevention and youth services with Educational Service District 112, and attended by 45 people from around the northwest.
Drug paraphernalia ordinance is also under consideration
The proposed ordinance regarding the display of drug paraphernalia could be similar to one approved by the Vancouver City Council.
It would prohibit businesses from displaying drug paraphernalia in an area that is open to viewing by a minor. It would allow for displays in a separate room or enclosure where minors are not allowed to enter.
Examples of paraphernalia include bongs, glass pipes, miniature cocaine spoons and wired cigarette papers.
The first civil violation would cost $250, and the second would involve a fine of $500. Subsequent violations would cost $1,000 each.
Both of the proposed ordinances could be discussed during the next Washougal City Council workshop Monday, at 5 p.m., followed by votes at the meeting at 7 p.m. If they are approved, there could be a 30-day period to educate minors and business owners.