Committee Urged to Consider Full Ban on e-Cigarettes for City’s Schools

(WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill High School: Registered nurse Diane Knight plans to visit with administration at Haverhill High to get a sense of the level of e-cigarette use among students.

Haverhill students shouldn’t be surprised if a total ban on e-cigarettes is instituted soon on every campus in the city.

School Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr. recommended a zero-tolerance policy on the devices Thursday after hearing a presentation by Diane Knight, director of the Northeast Tobacco Free Community Partnership.

“All schools are looking at their policies around this,” Knight said.

Electronic cigarettes are marketed as a safe alternative to combustible tobacco cigarettes. They are comprised of a battery unit and a receptacle for liquid, which is heated to create an aerosol vapor, which is inhaled.

“Big tobacco is still targeting our kids,” Knight proclaimed. “They’ve changed the product but the marketing is the same. They’re sweet, cheap and easy to get.”

Knight said there are hundreds of models of e-cigarettes and about 8,000 flavors of liquid containing varying levels of nicotine.

“They really think it’s harmless, that it’s just water vapor,” Knight said of the teens, some as young as middle school, who use them.

In addition to nicotine, Knight said, the liquid includes flavoring that contains cancer-causing particles, volatile organic compounds like benzene and heavy metals such as lead, nickel and tin.

Although the packaging often declares the product nicotine-free, the liquids sold for the devices have been tested and do contain nicotine, Knight said.

“Nicotine in any form is unsafe for kids. It just is.”

School Committee member Sven Amirian said he is concerned by the number of so-called “vaping” stores, and asked whether there is any way for the city to regulate them.

Knight said boards of health can limit vaping products to be sold in adult-only locations.

Wood said police, especially school resource officers, are concerned about the vaping devices being used to ingest illicit drugs.

Knight said some users fill the receptacle of the e-cigarettes with a liquid containing cannabis.

According to data from the Northeast Tobacco Free Community Partnership, one in four high school students uses e-cigarettes regularly and more than half have tried them at least once.