Goddard cracking down on underage vaping

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"I'm all for anything that promotes health," said Dr. Joey Vrana.

The City of Goddard is cracking down on underage vaping.  Goddard Police say they needed help controlling the spread of vaping among local teens, so the city council tightened the law this week.

"As a parent, you just never know what's in it," said Vrana about the juice in e-cigarettes.  

He has five kids in Goddard, from pre-school to high school.  He worries about their exposure to vaping.

"My parents both smoked," he said.  "And anything we can do to keep kids from smoking."

The Centers for Disease Control say while e-cigs can help adult smokers quit, they can be dangerous for minors.

And, Goddard has seen a recent surge in possession cases.

"Our officers, the school district police, they were catching kids with just the pods but not the e-cig device.  So, really, it put us in a bind with no way to to deal with that offense," Chief Fred Farris, Goddard Police.  "The school district was somewhere between 20 and 30 (cases) over the last couple of months that they've had."

He added that, increasingly, those pods have had THC in them.  That's the active ingredient in marijuana.  But, it's a surge the city hasn't been able to prosecute.

"We've got to do something to make sure these kids aren't getting these harmful devices," Farris said.

He says the problem was that state law doesn't bar minors from possessing the pods themselves.  So officers either had to test to see if THC was in them or let the kids go.

"You can't throw that many cases at a lab and expect to have any kind of a quick turnaround," he added.

So, instead, the school and city police departments asked the city council to outlaw possession of the vape juice pods by minors.  The proposed ordinance passed unanimously.

"I just think it couldn't be more fantastic, trying to keep our youth protected," said Vrana.

A possession charge under the new ordinance comes with a $200 fine.  Though the judge can lower the amount if the teen completes community service or an educational program on the potential dangers of vaping.

The idea behind the change, Chief Farris said, is to reach those first time offenders.

"Second offense, if you haven't figured it out by that point then... then you're going to pay the full amount," he added.

While some in town say this new law won't do much good because kids will be kids, parents like Vrana like the new ordinance.

"Whatever they can do to educate them.  Just taking it away from them isn't going to do it.  So if you can do something to know why it's not a good idea, that's even more fantastic," Vrana said.

Last September, the Goddard School Board voted to file a lawsuit against companies involved in the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes and vaping products.  The resolution passed 7-0.

The new vaping rules in Goddard go into effect by the beginning of next week at the latest, as soon as the local paper, the Times Sentinel, gets the new ordinance published.

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