Individuals caught using e-cigarettes or other tobacco products on school grounds next school year will be subject to a fine.
Shelton Empowers — a committee made up of local parents, school and public safety officials — is presently working with local law enforcement and education officials to strengthen the public schools’ policy regarding punishments for anyone caught using tobacco products and vaping products on any campus.
“(Shelton Empowers) have decided to upgrade the no smoking policy on the books for the district,” said Assistant Superintendent Lorraine Rossner, a member of Shelton Empowers since its inception three years ago.
“We want to strengthen the wording to call out vaping, Juuls, other terms,” added Rossner, “but we need to decide the “wording, which is probably going to be attached to a ticket. That will have a bit more teeth with the juvenile review board.”
Rossner, who is retiring at school year’s end, said that the policy wording will be completed over the summer and instituted for the next school year.
With statewide student use of tobacco alternatives — specifically vaping or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) — continuing to rise at a rapid rate, Shelton Empowers has been taking steps — including participating in the state’s Catch My Breath program and investigating if there is a city ordinance allowing fines to be given to students caught using e-cigarettes on school grounds — to educate students and adults about the dangers posed by vaping.
“We’re trying to open parents’ eyes to risky behaviors that kids are participating in that can be gateway behaviors to actions that could be much more harmful,” said Rossner. “If we can stop them at step one, hopefully they will not get to step two, three or four.”
Rossner said John Niski, Shelton High athletic director and physical education and health curriculum leader, began earlier this school year the process of obtaining the state’s curriculum for the Catch My Breath program so that it can instituted in the district.
Catch My Breath is designed for students in the eighth through 12th grades and uses a peer-led teaching approach to provide up-to-date information on the negative impacts of e-cigarettes, including Juul devices.
While the fine amounts — and whether it will be incremental, as an example, $75 for first offense, $125 for second and upward from there — remain undetermined, Rossner said that those caught on a first offense will have the option of paying the fine or participating in the Catch My Breath program.
According to the 2017 Connecticut Youth Tobacco Survey, the reported use of tobacco alternatives by high school students doubled between 2015 (7.2 percent) and 2017 (14.7 percent), and 45 percent of students reported exposure to secondhand smoke or ENDS aerosol.
“Unfortunately, unless there is a consequence to behavior, the behavior will just continue,” said Rossner. “Smoking cigarettes is few and far between; the real issue is nicotine. Nicotine is so much more accessible in a vaping device than in cigarettes. We all need to be better educated on this so we can make sure we are helping our children down the right path.”