Commentary: Time for Greater Morristown to crack down on teen vaping

Types of e-cigarettes. Source: CDC.gov
Types of e-cigarettes. Source: CDC.gov
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By Melissa Spiotta

Those who know me know that I have one child, so I probably spend too much time focusing on her and all of her trials and tribulations.

Here’s the thing: It seems to me that vaping is a burgeoning epidemic affecting our teens. And it seems like not much is being done to help.

I already have attended multiple parent education sessions on the topic, and yet I still feel helpless to do anything. 

If you google nicotine and the teenage brain, you find a ton of articles.  

If you read this one, it is pretty scary.  It seems to me that if you replace the word nicotine with the word heroin or opioid, it isn’t much different.  

I attended a session last spring at the courthouse, where young adults who are part of the Morris County Drug Court program spoke of their addictions.

I asked them if they had smoked or vaped, and asked if it ended up being a precursor to their addiction. Two of them said they had, and that they wished they never started because it all escalated from there.  That is terrifying!

Now you might be saying to yourself that you experimented with cigarettes when you were a kid and you turned out okay.  But I don’t think they are the same. 

As this article points out, one pod has as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. When you dabbled in cigarettes, did you smoke a whole pack at a time?

It’s also a lot easier to hide the vaping, so the odds that kids are doing it many times a day is much higher.  Sneaking cigarettes was much more difficult for us.

And what makes it worse is, it seems that because kids have been getting caught with the vaping devices, they now are sharing them and pitching in money for pods.
  
What scares me the most about that is the thought that kids are using each pod faster because they don’t know when they will have it next. 

What can we do?

In Morristown,  there are at least five or six places, most of them near the train station, where kids are getting what they need. And the fine for selling to minors is only $200, I believe.

I drove by one place the other day and I saw a pack of kids around the front door of one of them.  You have to suspect that right after school dismissal is one of the peak times.  

Here is what I think.

The mayors of Morristown, Morris Township and Morris Plains–the towns that send students to Morristown High School– should get together and write a new ordinance that involves much harsher fines for people who sell these goods.

Two hundred dollars is nothing when the devices cost $80.  The people who sell these items should be likened to drug dealers.  Nicotine is a drug. In my opinion it is that simple.

This won’t solve the problem completely. But it would be a good start.

Mayors, I know you care about our kids. Please help us to help our kids.

Melissa Spiotta is a member of the Morris School District Board of Education. The opinions here are her own, and do not represent an official board position.

Editor’s note: Nor do opinions expressed by commentary writers necessarily reflect those of this publication. Read more about anti-vaping measures by Morris Township and the Morris County Park Commission.

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