By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Vaping, also known as e-cigarettes, has recently become a problem within many schools in Oklahoma, leading the state legislature to pass a measure banning them on school property across the state in an effort to crack down on an activity that is considered dangerous for youth.
Governor Kevin Stitt approved Senate Bill 33 April 16, which added “vapor product” to the Tobacco-Free Schools Act, which effectively banned tobacco products on school property across the state.
The legislation was hailed as a positive step in promoting the health of Oklahoma students.
“That legislation was something that was very good for schools to help compliment the tobacco-free properties that was passed in 2015,” said Jenny Creech, Oklahoma State University Prevention Program Tobacco Settlement Endowment Fund coordinator for Kay County.
E-cigarettes have become popular in recent years among adults as a step to quitting smoking, as it contains nicotine, but not the negative side effects of the tobacco smoke. However, like smoking, e-cigarettes, or e-cigs, have become a negative influence on youth, at somewhat alarming rates.
“These companies have developed them to look like toys, and for the kids, that is bad,” said Newkirk Public Schools (NPS) Superintendent Brady Barnes.
A negative side effect is the nicotine, which can be very unhealthy for teenagers, as their brains are still developing, Creech said.
“Vaping is bad for kids because nicotine is an addictive chemical, and kids don’t need to be exposed to addictive chemicals,” she said.
Although the state ban was enacted April 16, NPS has had a ban for several years, which prohibits “vaping,” as well as the possession of vaping products by anyone on all school property, including school vehicles and outdoor events, such as athletic games.
That hasn’t stopped students from attempting to use them in class, however.
“We don’t allow them in our school property, so it’s created a lot of work for our principals, getting rid of them,” Barnes said.
Barnes said there is a “moderate” problem with vaping at NPS, which included both the high school and middle school. Students caught with vaping products will receive suspension, and each subsequent offense will result in a lengthier suspension.
Now that the state legislature has passed the law, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) will create statewide rules regarding e-cigarettes, and NPS will adjust their rules accordingly.
“Governor Stitt has signed new legislation in our state, and the OSSBA will draft something for our board to look at this summer,” Barnes said. “Our policy will be based on the law.”