A new Texas law will require public schools to implement harsher punishments for students caught with electronic cigarettes, and East Texas school districts say they are doing their part to curb the issue.
Passed in the Texas regular session, House Bill 114 is a one-strike policy and requires schools to immediately remove the student from class and put them in a Discipline Alternative Education Program (DAEP) if they sell, give, have or use a vape within 300 feet of any school property, on or off. The law also covers any school-sponsored or school-related activity.
The new law intended to help address the vaping issue goes into effect Sept. 1, but some schools like Tyler ISD, which curtailed the issue last year, are ahead of the curve.
“Tyler ISD recognizes that vaping is a massive epidemic that is hurting the health of today’s children,” Tyler ISD Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Hines said. “We are doing our part by tracking vaping activity through installed vape detectors throughout our campuses in hopes of decreasing the health problems for students who vape. The vape detectors have been efficient in detecting when students are vaping, allowing us to address the issue immediately.”
Beginning last year, students caught vaping or with a vape product were sent to the district’s DAEP. Students caught with vaping products on Tyler ISD grounds also receive a Class C misdemeanor citation and a fine of up to $100. In addition, if that vaping device has other substances in it, such as THC, the student be arrested and face felony charges.
Since its introduction in the early 2000s, vaping has been an alternative to tobacco cigarettes; however, it has become a plague of its own with health risks. It has also become an addictive habit for youth.
“Vaping is a serious issue with our youth,” Tyler ISD Superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford said in a statement last year. “You can’t buy bourbon in Tyler, Texas, but our youth can get their hands on vapes on almost every corner around town.”
Other districts agree vaping is a serious issue with youth and believe the new law will help strengthen and reinforce their school policies.
“We believe this policy will serve as a deterrent and reinforce our dedication to promoting responsible behavior and maintaining a drug-free campus,” Bullard ISD said in a statement. “By upholding this policy, we aim to protect our students’ physical and mental health while ensuring an optimal educational experience for all.”
Arp ISD will also enforce the law and reiterate the message that vaping is not only harmful, but will bring serious consequences along with it.
“The state has acquired enough evidence to know that vaping is harmful for our students. So harmful that they have instituted this new policy as a means to dissuade any and all vaping by students,” Arp ISD superintendent Shannon Arrington said. “The message is very clear — don’t vape.”
According to Texas Health and Human Services, vaping simulates smoking. Battery-powered vape devices create an aerosol that looks like water vapor but contains nicotine, flavoring, and more than 30 other chemicals. The aerosol is inhaled into the lungs where the nicotine and chemicals cross over into the bloodstream.
The earliest vape devices looked like cigarettes. Newer models look like a USB flash drive or small pod. Vapes come in many shapes and sizes but they have the same basic components, including a battery, sensor, and atomizer/ flavor cartridge. The e-liquid is quickly heated and converted to an aerosol that can be inhaled into the lungs.
Because most e-cigarettes contain nicotine (the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products), the risk of heart and lung diseases is also possible. Second-hand smoke from e-cigarettes is also likely because of how much fumes pollute the air around the vaper, putting those around them at risk.
Additionally, e-cigarette batteries have caused some fires and explosions, which have resulted in serious injuries.
Under the new law, it is up to each district to decide how long students spend in alternative school.