Burlington Township school officials announce stance on use of electronic cigarettes

As of Oct. 2, approximately 800 lung injury cases have been reported from 46 states and one U.S. territory, and 12 deaths have been confirmed in 10 states related to the use of electronic cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although CDC officials announced that there are still unknowns about e-cigarettes, such as specific chemical exposure(s) causing these lung injuries associated with their use and which single product or substance has been linked to all lung injury cases, the Burlington Township School District is not waiting around to implement action on the matter.

Burlington Township Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Bell made it clear at a Sept. 25 school board meeting that the school district is determined to stymie the risks of e-cigarettes from its students.

“We know that across our country, we are seeing a vaping crisis,” Bell said. “There are, sadly, a lot of very sick people and some deaths associated with unregulated devices and substances that people have been vaping.”

Bell made an announcement to the district’s students and families at the meeting to outline the potential risks of e-cigarette use and to ensure that the district is determined to inform the school community about them. She also confirmed district officials can and will take action if a student is caught with the use of the product.

The Burlington Township superintendent explained that while the district may face the potential risk of students using these products, its schools have already taken steps to inform the youth about the dangers associated with them.

“I am very proud of the fact that three years ago, our district came out with multiple speakers,” Bell said. “We have had speakers in this district for the past four years about the potential hazards of [e-cigarettes], so I am not happy that we are facing this crisis, but I am happy that we, as a district, to have taken a strong stance very early.”

As the school year carries forward, Bell said in her statement that if a student is caught with use of the product, district officials consider the product to be a drug-related substance.

The superintendent explained that the district’s regulation on this matter can potentially solicit disciplinary action for the student.

“We notify our students and our families that if anyone is found with vaping devices, then we can consider it drug paraphernalia, and we do a drug test,” she said. “It’s one of the ways that we try to make sure that people understand that this is dangerous or has the potential to be dangerous.”

While professionals work toward identifying and gathering more information about e-cigarettes and the potential dangers of their use, Bell stated that the district is intent on updating the school community about the product as well as corrective actions to encourage students to make favorable choices.

“We will continue to try to identify things that we think might be harmful to our young people and help them in providing information to them and their families, so that good decision-making can happen,” she said. “I’m sorry for those that are going through it, but I am proud of the fact the [the district] took such a strong stance so early.”