Even though people younger than 18 can purchase electronic cigarettes, they are now prohibited from using them on some local school grounds. School boards in Battle Ground, Camas and Ridgefield all recently adopted revised tobacco policies that ban the use of electronic cigarettes on school grounds. Vancouver Public Schools has prohibited tobacco and “tobacco lookalikes” since at least 1998, district spokeswoman Kris Sork said.
The recent policy change came at the advice of the Washington State School Directors Association, said Gregg Herrington, spokesman for Battle Ground Public Schools.
Most school districts prohibit tobacco use on campuses. But because electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, don’t contain tobacco, the policies don’t cover the devices. The state law that prohibits the sale of tobacco to minors also doesn’t apply to e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that look like cigarettes and pull vapors from nicotine-soaked replaceable cartridges. The vapors are then inhaled by the user.
The Battle Ground board revised its policy this month, after a student used an e-cigarette on campus this school year.
The student was disciplined and told he could not use the device on school grounds, Herrington said. The boy’s father came to his defense, pointing out that the official policy didn’t ban e-cigarettes.
The district’s new policy bans nicotine, nicotine-delivering substances, chemicals or devices that produce the same flavor or physical effect of nicotine substances, and any other “tobacco innovation.”
Policies in the Camas and Ridgefield districts have the same language.
Evergreen Public Schools board members haven’t revised their tobacco policy, said district spokeswoman Carol Fenstermacher. The board is currently reviewing all of the district’s policies, though, so it’s possible the tobacco policy will be modified, she said.
The La Center school board hasn’t taken action yet either. Superintendent Mark Mansell said the issue hasn’t come up in La Center schools.
“But our position on it would be, it’s unacceptable,” Mansell said. “Sort of like wearing a T-shirt with a tobacco ad on it, I just think those sort of things are unacceptable.”
While state law doesn’t prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, Clark County Commissioners may make it illegal.
On Wednesday, the commissioners — in their capacity as the county board of health — asked county staff to prepare an ordinance that would restrict the sale of e-cigarettes to only people legally able to purchase tobacco products.
The board will hold a workshop on the proposed ordinance, which will also go through the public hearing process before commissioners vote.