Carmel may ban vaping in public places, including schools

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The Carmel City Council may soon ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places.

The council reviewed the issue at its May 20 meeting at the request of Carmel Police Dept. School Resource Officer Shane VanNatter. VanNatter pointed out that because city code does not address e-cigarettes, officers’ options are limited when responding to the more than 1,000 Carmel High School students who are 18 or older and legally allowed to possess and use vaping devices.

CHS bans the use of vaping devices on campus by all students, but VanNatter said CPD will be better able to crack down on the issue if the city tightens its ordinance.

“Mom and dad don’t care too much when their kid does after school detention,” VanNatter said. “They do care when they have to go to court or their kid is in court.”

City code currently bans smoking in public facilities and businesses. Proposed amendments would add e-cigarettes to the ban and specifically list schools as a place where they are prohibited. Violators may be fined up to $50 for a first offense and up to $500 for subsequent offenses.

The number of students vaping has rapidly increased locally and nationally in recent years. VanNatter wrote his first citation for e-cigarette use at CHS in 2014, and this school year he’s already written at least 25 citations.

According to the FDA, vaping among high school students rose 78 percent from 2017 to 2018. In Indiana, nearly 30 percent of high school seniors reported vaping monthly in 2018, according to the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, more than a 10 percent jump from 2017.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices used for inhaling a flavored aerosol that usually contains nicotine. Some look like cigarettes, while others resemble USB drives or pens, making them more difficult to detect. Some are discreet enough that students can use them during class without being caught.

Some students are using the devices to vape THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant that leads to feeling high. VanNatter said the THC oils are typically much more potent than smoking marijuana, and that he’s seen more than a dozen cases this school year of Carmel students “very, very impaired” after using it. He said it has led to four Carmel students being taken to the hospital this year.

“When we let our kids vape nicotine, it’s not just harmless,” he said. “It leads to the next level.”

The council’s finance committee plans to discuss the issue at 5:30 p.m. May 28.

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