Nearly a third of OPRF seniors vaping

Village trustees to take action with tougher ordinance

January 15th, 2019 12:10 PM

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.