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Suamico looks at vaping ordinance for minors

By Ben Rodgers

SUAMICO – The Suamico village board is looking to crack down on minors using vaping products with the first reading of a proposed ordinance at the Monday, March 4 meeting.

“It’s an epidemic in this country – vaping,” said Jim Kowalkowski, directed enforcement officer for Suamico. “The surgeon general declared that last fall.”

Kowalkowski said the state has legislation pending that would better define vaping and group it in with tobacco products.

Electronic cigarettes do not contain any tobacco and nothing is burned. Instead, a heating element in the device turns a liquid into a vapor, which is inhaled by the user.

Oftentimes that liquid contains nicotine, but there are liquids that contain no nicotine.

Other liquids that cannot be purchased in stores contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

“It’s a big problem, somebody got killed over some THC in a vaping pipe,” Kowalkowski said. “It’s a big problem.”

He was referencing Federico Abarca, an 18-year-old Preble High School student who died Friday, Feb. 22, after an altercation when four men tried to rob him during a deal for THC vaping cartridges.

The four suspects appeared in court on Feb. 25 and have been detained on a $500,000 cash bond.

Kowalkowski said the problem is law enforcement doesn’t know what’s in the vape.

“When you get a pack of tobacco cigarettes you know what you’ve got usually,” he said. “But when you get these pipes, you don’t know what you’ve got, and that’s what’s scary for young people. It is a problem.”

Kowalkowski said the problem is with juveniles vaping.

This proposed ordinance would allow officers to issue a citation, currently something they can only currently do for tobacco products.

“We’re not looking at an indoor ordinance, we’re not looking at prohibiting it in bars, this mainly deals with minors and with adults only on school property,” he said.

Mark Hackett, Howard-Suamico School District school resource officer, said the problem is real in the district.

He said last week five to seven students at Lineville Intermediate School were caught vaping in the bathroom.

A student in the district also vaped unmarked liquid from another student, which contained THC and the user was unaware and suffered some mental issues because of it, he said.

Hackett also said he found a clear bottle of vape liquid on Monday and is not sure if it contains nicotine or THC.

Trustee Dan Roddan said his son comes home from Bay View Middle School and tells him about the students who vape there.

He was in support of the ordinance.

“Somebody gave another kid a bottle with THC in it and he had a medical issue, and right now we don’t have any ordinances to prevent that from happening,” Roddan said. “This seems pretty simple to me and self-explanatory.”

No other representatives from the school district were at hand, but the district did release a statement on Tuesday.

“We support a vaping ordinance and we appreciate our civic leaders’ interest in the health and wellness of our students,” said Brian Nicol Howard-Suamico School District spokesperson. “In addition to existing language in our student handbook and co-curricular code of conduct, a vaping ordinance would support our efforts to encourage positive student choices.”

The board also had a first reading for an ordinance regarding pet licensing in the village.

Called an animal fanciers license, this would allow village residents to own up to 10 dogs, as long as they passed an inspection and renewed the license annually.

A second reading and adoption of the ordinances, pending any changes, are expected at a later meeting.

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