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By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

The Montclair school district is warning students not to use e-cigarettes, or risk running afoul of the schools’ substance abuse policies.

Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak sent a letter to students and parents on Thursday detailing the consequences of using e-cigarettes, popularly known as “vaping.”

BOE President Laura Hertzog said on Friday that several parents had reached out to the district with concerns that children and teens were trying vaping. She said that the parents had wanted to make sure that the district was aware of the matter.

“There’s been a fair amount of coverage in the media, and in the CDC, that this is a significantly growing problem,” Hertzog said.

According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016 more than two million middle and high school students had used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days, including 4.3 percent of middle school students and 11.3 percent of high school students. The data also indicates that in the United States, young people are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes.

One concern is that children and teens may not be aware that electronic cigarettes still pose a health risk, since they contain tobacco and other substances, Hertzog said. The district has an anti-smoking policy in place. As of Friday, the board’s policy committee is reviewing changes that would include electronic cigarettes and similar smoking devices.

A student found to be in possession of an electronic smoking device or any of its components while at school or at a school-sanctioned event will be considered to be under the influence of drugs, the letter states. The student will be sent for a medical examination and drug screening, and will be required to meet with the student assistance counselor upon returning to school.

“We felt that we needed to inform our families because of the critical issues around vaping,” Pinsak said via email Friday. She said that the district was looking at the best ways to send out information, including making additions to the school health curriculum, professional development for teachers and changes to existing policies. “We have heard concerns from administrators, health professionals and parents, and feel that we should be proactive and focus on prevention.”

The letter says that electronic smoking devices are often designed to look like a pen, marker, or other item that may escape notice. Additionally, the letter says that the devices might be used to hide other drug-related items.

According to the CDC, e-cigarettes may be known as “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “tank systems” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems.” The CDC’s website says that e-cigarettes may be made to look like items such as pens or flash drives.

“It is our hope that through the efforts of home and school, our students will refrain from using such devices. We strongly encourage you to have a conversation with your child about the dangers of e-cigarettes,” the district’s letter says.

The letter states that under New Jersey state law, the minimum age for buying cigarettes and tobacco products is now 21, and that the law applies both to tobacco and electronic smoking devices.

Vaping and e-cigarettes have come up for discussions at recent board meetings. “E-cigarettes are as dangerous as regular cigarettes,” board member Jessica de Koninck said during a Jan. 10 meeting. “Just because they are electronics, they still have tobacco, they still have nicotine, they are still addictive.”

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