Newtown Borough Council Considers Updating Tobacco Free Zone Ordinance To Include Vaping/e-cigarettes
NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> Under an ordinance amendment proposed by Councilor Nicole Rodowicz, vaping would be prohibited in the borough’s tobacco free zones for all ages and possession and/or use of vaping products could result in warnings and fines for anyone under the age of 18.
Council already has a prohibition on its books for smoking in the town’s parks. Under the amendment to the borough’s tobacco free zone ordinance e-cigarettes (vaping) would be added to the prohibitions.
The ordinance would apply to Veterans Plaza on North State Street next to borough hall, Brian Gregg Park on North Congress, Linton Memorial Park on South Lincoln and the new creek walk that is planned as part of the Stocking Works redevelopment project.
Because state law prohibits the purchase or sale of vaping products to anyone under the age of 18, solicitor Tom Panzer said the borough has the authority to prohibit the use and possession by anyone under the age of 18 on its public properties.
“The whole point of this is to bring attention to it - that if you vape in our parks you’re breaking the law and you’re going to get a warning and then a fine,” said Rodowicz, who is hoping the action sends a strong message to the area’s young people that vaping along with smoking won’t be tolerated in borough-owned public spaces.
Rodowicz made the proposal after speaking with Superintendent Dr. Robert Fraser of the Council Rock School District, district judge Mick Petrucci and administrators at Council Rock High School South and the Newtown Middle School, all of whom said vaping has become a big problem.
“As of today, the first day of school, they had taken 30 vapes away from students,” said Rodowicz, sharing information she received from a friend who works at CR South. “These kids go to CVS, they buy a VISA card and then they order it on line. There are hundreds of ways to get it.”
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, e-vaporizers, or electronic nicotine delivery systems, are battery-operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol, which typically contains nicotine (though not always), flavorings and other chemicals. They can resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes (cig-a-likes), cigars or pipes, or even everyday items like pens or USB memory sticks.
E-cigarettes are popular among teens and are now the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth in the United States. Their easy availability, alluring advertisements, various e-liquid flavors and the belief that they’re safer than cigarettes have helped make them appealing to the age group.
“The message is don’t carry these attractive vaping instruments around with you in the borough and don’t go to the borough parks with them because simply possessing them may subject you to a fine,” said Panzer.
The amendment, if passed, would give borough police the ability to seize vaping materials and to issue citations for use and possession. Violators would face a warning for the first offense and fines for subsequent offenses.
Chief James Sabath equated it to the underage drinking laws. “If you’re in possession of a bottle of alcohol you’re in violation. We don’t have to see you sipping,” he said. For a use charge, he added, “We would actually have to see them using it.”
Rodowicz said she’d also like to see an educational component on vaping added to the language of the amendment. “They (e-cigarettes) were supposed to help people stop smoking, not to get kids hooked on smoking,” she said.
Following the discussion, council directed Panzer to draw an amended draft ordinance that includes the vaping provisions, the addition of Veterans Plaza and the creek walk to the tobacco-free zones and an educational component while guarding against violations of anyone’s civil liberties.