BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
Vaping with electronic cigarettes may soon be just as illegal for youth as regular tobacco in Independence Township.
The Township Board voted unanimously, Feb. 5, to approve first reading of an ordinance to add vapor products to its tobacco prohibition for minors.
“It’s certainly a problem,” said Trustee Jim Tedder. “As a father of three, there’s no question we have a real issue on our hands.”
The township currently prohibits those under 18 years old from purchasing or possessing cigarettes and other tobacco products, and retailers are prohibited from selling them to minors. Current ordinance does not apply, however, to new tobaccoless, vapor products. The “e-cigarettes” heat nicotine extracts from tobacco, flavorings, and other chemicals creating a water vapor to be inhaled. The products are marketed without age restrictions or health warnings, and come in flavors such as strawberry yogurt, ice cream cake, frosted donut, and marshmallow creme.
The ordinance, reviewed by township attorney Peter Keenan of Karlstrom Cooney, LLP, Clarkston Community Schools administration, and Lt. Larry Perry, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Independence Township substation, would prohibit the sale, giving or furnishing of tobacco and/or e-cigarettes to minors, and prohibit the purchase, possession or use of tobacco and/or e-cigarettes by minors.
Production and distribution of e-cigarettes is not currently regulated by federal or state authorities, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to impose severe restrictions on the sale of most e-cigarette products, Keenan said.
“The FDA has determined that e-cigarettes can increase nicotine addiction among young people and contain chemical ingredients known to be harmful, which may expose users and the public to health risks,” he said.
The state has not yet addressed the issue, but local municipalities can take action on their own.
So far, a sprinkling of municipalities ban usage and possession of vaping products, as well as tobacco, for those under 18, he said.
The proposed ordinance would make a first offense a civil infraction and $50 fine.
For those 16 and under, further violations would also be civil infractions. For those 17 years old, however, second and further offenses would be a misdemeanor. Community service and participation in health promotion programs could also be required.
Second reading of the ordinance will be scheduled for a future meeting. If approved, the ordinance would take effect after proper publication.
BY PHIL CUSTODIO