BARNEGAT, NJ – President Trump’s announcement that his administration recognizes the dangers of vaping surely hits home. It’s something the Barnegat Police Department and the Superintendent of Schools have already joined forces to fight. Unfortunately, vaping represents a severe issue among school-aged children.

Meanwhile, there’s something even more alarming. “Some of the kids don’t even know what’s in the vape pens,” shared Dr. Brian Latwis, Barnegat Superintendent of Schools.

That itself could represent the start of more than a few issues. It’s not just that vaping-related injuries and deaths are reportedly on the rise. While some e-cigarettes contain nicotine, others are used to vaporize cannabis.

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In New Jersey, random drug testing is permissible in select situations. For example, students involved in school clubs, activities or athletic programs can be randomly checked for drugs. The same is true for high school kids who take advantage of student parking.  Currently, Barnegat does not do random drug testing of any kind.

That said, Barnegat schools do have a policy in place when it comes to suspicions related to the use of dangerous controlled substances. Parents of students who appear under the influence are contacted, and their children are then required to submit to a drug test.

Since there’s no way of the school district knowing what’s in a vape pen, that too will start the procedures leading to a mandatory drug test. The pens are also confiscated.

Barnegat Police Chief Keith Germain considers it critical for his department to work with the school district.  “We met with Dr. Latwis to see how we could coordinate our efforts as far as the law and a safe environment,” said Germain.

Latwis shared that like other districts throughout the country, one of the most significant issues in the schools centered around what the Barnegat Police Chief termed the “vaping epidemic.”

Germain credited the Township Committee for also addressing the problem. “We were one of the first municipalities to pass a vaping ordinance,” Germain shared. “It allows us to enforce accountability for kids and adults providing vaping devices to those too young to legally possess or use them.”

According to the Barnegat Schools Superintendent, the ordinance has already been enforced this year. “We have a zero-tolerance policy and absolutely enforce the school policy and local ordinance,” Latwis said. “However, we also recognize that vaping is an addiction and take proactive measures to work with students struggling with it.”

Many adults may recall sneaking a cigarette on school grounds. However, the strong smell often gave them away. It’s not as easy to detect vaping because their odor is slight in comparison. Additionally, the vape pens won’t set off smoke detectors because they produce vapor and not smoke.

What’s the big deal anyway? Some might think the media has come upon something to sensationalize. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers some quick facts on the risks of e-cigarettes for kids, teens, and young adults. The bottom line is that this recognized authority considers vaping or ““JUULing” to be unsafe.

Yesterday, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 84, which created the Electronic Smoking Device Task Force. The goal is to formulate a comprehensive strategy to protect New Jersey residents from the hazards of electronic cigarette. No doubt the task force will also address vaping issues beyond student populations.

However, children are absolutely cited as a priority in the government plan. ““It is absolutely critical for parents to be aware and vigilant of vaping dangers, just as they are with prescription medications and illegal drugs,” said Christine Norbut Beyer, Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families.  “The vaping industry has gone stealth, creating tools that mimic flash drives, sharpie markers, lipstick, lighters, and more. This type of marketing certainly raises concerns because they’re targeting youth, encouraging deception and putting young lives at-risk.”

 

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at sfaughnan@tapinto.net.