Possession of e-cigarettes by anyone under 21 is about to become illegal in Morris Township.
“We’re going to try to lead the way in the state of New Jersey to take hold of an epidemic that’s really gripping schools around the country, but also in our community,” Mayor Jeff Grayzel said on Wednesday, after the Committee introduced the ordinance by a 4-0 vote.
E-cigarettes, also known as vaping devices, vaporize nicotine or marijuana oils. They can resemble pens, lip gloss, or a USB drive, and while high school students think vaping is safe, “recent studies have shown that it poses a significant health risks to young people,” Grayzel said, citing a school message to parents.
Nicotine is highly addictive and can damage adolescent brain development, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults,” states the CDC website.
While New Jersey bans the sale of vaping devices to underage users, nothing prohibits their possession, according to Township Administrator Tim Quinn.
“So in a sense, this is groundbreaking legislation,” said Grayzel, noting that Township police brought the problem to the Committee’s attention.
Scheduled for adoption on Feb. 20, 2019, the ordinance will give officers assigned to Township schools an enforcement tool to deal with the issue, the Mayor said.
Police Chief Mark DiCarlo and Township Attorney John Mills III crafted the law based on a 2000 ordinance that addressed underaged drinking on private property, Grayzel explained later. That ordinance holds responsible those who provide alcohol to minors on private property.
A resident asked on Wednesday if running afoul of the anti-vaping measure might create a record that would hinder a student’s prospects for college or employment.
Any police interaction involving juveniles is sealed, answered Quinn, a former police chief. Police would be likely to reach out and involve parents over a first offense, he said.
“It’s more of an intervention as a first step,” Quinn said.
If violations persist, the matter could escalate to a juvenile conference committee or juvenile court, he said.
Persons between ages 18 and 21 could face penalties, noted Mills. The attorney did not elaborate on those penalties.
This week the Morris County Park Commission announced it has banned use of vaping devices in county parks.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include information about the Township’s 2000 ordinance.