Saturday, October 5, 2013

Manatee schools taking steps to guard against smokeless, nicotine devices

Bradenton Herald
By Carl Mario Nudi and Erica Earl

Manatee, FL -- With the popularity of electronic cigarettes increasing since their introduction in 2003, many teenagers have experimented with them.

The use of the smokeless nicotine delivery devices among Florida teenagers has more than doubled in just two years, even though state statues forbid selling e-cigarettes to anyone under 18.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, 12.1 percent of high school students in Florida have tried e-cigarettes in 2013, up from 6 percent in 2011.

Skip Wilhoit, coordinator of safe schools for the Manatee County School District, said there has been about

a 50 percent drop in teen use in tobacco use since around 2000.

According to the 2010 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey study by the Florida Department of Children and Families, 33 percent of Manatee County middle school students and 60.3 percent of the high schoolers surveyed said they tried cigarettes, compared to 16.8 and 34.1 respectively in 2010.

"E-cigarettes have been brought to our attention, and our policies cover all new products," Wilhoit said.


Bradenton Deputy Chief of Police Warren Merriman said that while he has not encountered teenagers using the e-cigarettes, the devices can be easily obtained by youth the same way as tobacco products -- from friends or parents.

"We haven't really had a problem with that," Merriman said.

Merriman said there are ways that schools can be more aware of middle and high school students bringing e-cigarettes on campus.

"School resource officers do a very good job on enforcing no tobacco products on school grounds," Merriman said. "We ask if a teacher or parent sees a student with a tobacco product or an e-cigarette that they contact the SROs or a school administrator."

Merriman said he could not verify if the e-cigarettes do appeal to teenagers.


Elaine Keller, president and one of the founders of Consumer Advocates for Smokefree Alternatives Association, said her group was against teenagers purchasing and using e-cigarettes.

But Keller said CASAA was opposed to any attempt to ban or restrict sales to adults.

"We encourage legislation to restrict the sale to anyone under the legal age to purchase cigarettes," she said.

CASAA, now with more than 6,000 members, was formed in 2009 by members of an online forum as an advocacy group to raise awareness and protect access to smoking alternatives.

"The FDA was seizing e-cigarette shipments, and we started to become concerned about losing the thing that was helping us quit smoking," she said. "There is still an ongoing campaign to get rid of e-cigarettes or make them less accessible."

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