Nearly a third of OPRF seniors vaping

Village trustees to take action with tougher ordinance

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Board of Trustees is expected to pass a new ordinance more tightly controlling the sale of electronic cigarettes in the village, following a report from the Board of Health showing that nearly a third of 12th graders in Oak Park have vaped within the last 30 days.

The health board suggested a range of rules for distributors in an effort to curb teen vaping. The report said some e-cigarettes companies, specifically naming JUUL Labs, market to teenagers with vape pens flavored like strawberry, blueberry and watermelon.

Oak Park Public Health Department Director Mike Charley said the Illinois Youth Survey, which Oak Park and River Forest High School students participate voluntarily in every two years, showed "alarming" increases in smoking since 2016.

He said 45 percent of high school seniors had used e-cigarettes, as did 32 percent of 10th-graders and 13 percent of eighth-graders. That's an increase of 55 percent for seniors from 2016, 167 percent for 10th-graders and 160 percent for eighth-graders.

In the last 30 days, 31 percent of seniors had vaped, a 244 percent increase over the last two years; 23 percent of 10th-graders, up 666 percent; and 7 percent of eighth-graders, up 600 percent.

"Locally we know the numbers mimic what we see around the country, and we know it's increasing at an alarming rate, and now is the time to tackle this, not tomorrow, not next week, not a year from now," Charley said.

According to the Board of Health report, e-cigarette use by high school students across the country increased from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 11.3 percent in 2016.

Florence Miller, chairwoman of the Board of Health, said the sale of e-cigarettes, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), is having a "major impact here within our village."

She said the nicotine pods can contain up to 5-percent nicotine concentration, which equals the nicotine intake of a pack of cigarettes.

The board was asked by the Oak Park Board of Trustees in May of 2018 to review the village's tobacco ordinance as it relates to ENDS and report back with recommendations.

The Board of Health's recommendations include:

  • prohibiting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes,
  • prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes within 500 feet of a school,
  • increasing compliance checks to make sure stores aren't selling to adolescents,
  • partnering with youth organizations to educate the public on the dangers of e-cigarettes,
  • prohibiting the sale refillable pods,
  • restricting some marketing materials for ENDS,
  • reinforcing that retailers need to display signs stating that no one under 21 can buy tobacco products and e-cigarettes. 

Trustee Deno Andrews said he tends to be more "liberty based" when it comes to business, but acknowledged after the presentation that e-cigarettes are a growing problem in Oak Park.

Trustee Andrea Button said the problem goes beyond high school students, noting that her sixth-grade stepdaughter has said she's seen classmates vaping in the bathroom. Button said she would like to see a new e-cigarette ordinance on the books before the new board of trustees are sworn in after April 2. Button is not running for re-election.

Trustee Simone Boutet thanked Trustee Jim Taglia for bringing the issue to the board's attention in early 2018. Taglia called the issue a "public health emergency."

Taglia told trustees that he was particularly disturbed by the information in the health board's report noting that a lot of teenagers don't even realize that vaping is an addictive nicotine product.

The Board of Health noted in its report that a study by in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that 51.8 percent of seniors who use e-cigarettes believe that the product only contains flavoring, and only 11.1 percent of them believed e-cigarettes contain nicotine.

Reader Comments

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Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 20th, 2019 8:31 PM

Jason: I don't necessarily disagree. Yes I've heard the same stories about kids vaping in class. My only real point is that - as you have made clear on some of your other posts - is to stick to the facts. The made up facts justifying the present scare tactic hysteria in regard to vaping is counterproductive. As someone who has dealt with the FDA (indirectly as a member of a university IRB) I realize that the FDA is heavily influenced not only by industry but by politics. So when it comes to "facts" I would put more weight on a report by the National Academy of Science, other than the FDA. And I agree with you that it (the action of the FDA) is a "shot across the bow" to get "your stuff together." I just hope that is all it is, because IMO creating black markets are counter productive in every way imaginable.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: January 20th, 2019 5:34 PM

@Bruce, this isn't about the relative health of vaping compared to smoking. It's about the fact that teens are doing this at numbers above what we ever had with traditional smoking and the fact that these companies seem to be targeting teens. My son tells me kids puff in school because it's so easy and there's no smell. Can't do that with cigarettes. If we have kids that are vaping that never would have smoked then we have additional health risk from them. That's the issue the FDA seems to be targeting and I agree. I don't see them actually banning these. This is a shot across the bow to say get your stuff together or we will be forced to do it for you.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 20th, 2019 3:26 PM

Well Jason you bring up a lot of issues: political as well as health related. First, yes, the present evidence suggests that vaping is not as as "dangerous" health wise as inhaling the products of combustion. So while vaping is not good it is "not as bad as smoking." As the NAS points out, smoke contains a great many more carcinogens than nicotine vaping. This is not to say that vaping is a healthy activity but it is to say that those who claim that it is as bad or worse than smoking are just IMO incorrect. As far as the long term outcomes of vaping in regard to heart disease or cancer, well we just do not know. Because there is no evidence, literally. We should admit that. As far as the FDA is concerned, well that is what the FDA does. No surprise there. I am always skeptical of making "undesirable" products illegal. As prohibition and the "war on drugs" has taught us (well at least me) it just creates an enormous "black" market. I suspect the same will happen with vaping if the FDA goes through with their threat.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: January 20th, 2019 10:05 AM

The FDA seems pretty concerned about this issue also.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: January 17th, 2019 3:33 PM

@Bruce, I think you are missing the important point of this study. Kids are much more likely to vape then smoke because it's perceived as not bad. This means we have kids smoking that never would have before. That's an issue regardless of the decreased impact. I don't disagree that it's a bit odd to say you can go to war but not smoke but I still would prefer we try to keep kids from smoking if we can. You are right that kids will get weed if they want to so what are the laws really doing but they do likely stop some kids at least. It's better than nothing. I mean we have speed limits but I speed sometimes. I do at least think about it and don't do it all the time because I know I could be negatively impacted.

Wes Gathings  

Posted: January 17th, 2019 10:02 AM

Mark Peysakhovich I don't drink or smoke which in itself shows the value I have for either habit. However, I do see an inherent flaw in telling a man or woman they can choose to die a violent death on foreign soil following military orders but they can not drink a beer or go to a horse track. We're talking about 18 when in fact you can enlist at 17 with a parental signature. There are plenty of 17 yr. olds who will go to boot camp this summer before they start their senior year of high school. Old enough to kill, old enough to be killed but too young to buy a 4 pack of wine coolers. If you're old enough to go to Afghanistan and risk losing life or limb you're old enough for a shot of whiskey.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 10:42 PM

Jason: In regard to what is going on at the high school in regard to marijuana: same thing with vaping. So what exactly is the point then? (And yes Jason I am well aware of what goes on in the high school since I sent three kids there myself. Duh)! In regard to the article from the NAS. Aside from technological failures which are correctable, the point is the current evidence is that vaping is much less harmful to cardiopulmonary health than cigarettes. As far as oncogenic effects, the evidence so far shows that vaping is much less a risk than inhaling products of combustion. So those who rant and rave about the cancer risk, and adverse effect on cardiopulmonary health are making statements which at this point in time, are not supported by the evidence.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 9:02 PM

OK. You're a senior who vapes. You get caught. What happens? Jail time? I don't think so. So you pay a fine. Sounds like the village just wants to steal lunches from high school seniors.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 8:34 PM

"Following a report......" Is this the type of survey where the kids sometimes provide less than accurate information? I'm not saying that e-cigs aren't stupid and bad and common sense measures should be taken regardless of actual usage, but we should look at surveys like this with extreme skepticism.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 7:53 PM

@Bruce, your article only proves the point as it relates to younger kids. See Your comment on legal marijuana is pretty hilarious. First of all you have to be 21 to buy legal marijuana in states where it's legal and these aren't 7-11's. ID's are heavily checked. Second if you had any sense of what's actually going on at the high school you would know it's insanely easy to buy marijuana right now. There's no HS student that wants to smoke it that doesn't know how to easily get it.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 6:47 PM

No there is no rule. But before "rules" are made maybe you should recognize the facts which you and the rest of the OP nannystaters find inconvenient ... before you launch your hysteria campaign. You want a serious issue? An issue that will really need a well thought out policy. Wait until recreational marijuana becomes legal. Then we can talk serious.

Mark Peysakhovich from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 6:38 PM

So what if they're old enough to vote and join the army at 18? They're still unable to gamble or drink. There is absolutely no rule that says if they're recognized as old enough to vote they're old enough for XYZ.

Janet Haisman from OaK Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 5:15 PM

This is a truly serious issue. But please add the words High School before the word "seniors." We have relatives who are dealing with this daily - some kids end up having to go to rehab. How is this an improvement over smoking?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 15th, 2019 5:54 PM

Jason: You're distorting our argument. I have no objection to making it hard for kids to vape (or smoke for that matter). Neal and I have a problem with making it hard for legal adults to do so: such as those teens who are 18 yrs and over.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: January 15th, 2019 5:15 PM

I have two kids and one will be 18 a month before graduation and the other will graduate at 17. Not sure why you guys think all seniors are 18. The article also notes the alarming numbers for the lower grades also. I can't see how anyone can see an issue with OP wanting to make it hard for kids to do this.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 15th, 2019 3:33 PM

I agree Neal. But OP and it's leaders are the epitome of the nanny state. Yeah, if you are 18 you are old enough to put your life on the line in the military (how's that for a health consequence?), and old enough to exercise the singular act of citizenship: voting. But somehow not old enough to chose what enters your own body.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2019 3:20 PM

You can vote, or join the military, but you're not smart enough to make health choices? If we assume that 18 year olds aren't mature enough, we should also take away their right to vote.

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