Vaping going up in smoke in Johnstown district

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District administration will study how to strengthen a policy banning vaping — or use of electronic cigarettes — on campus following concerns by a Board of Education member.

Board member Jennifer Sponnoble told the board last week at Knox Junior High School the district should look into the use of e-cigarettes.

“We’ve all seen an increase,” she said.

The district already has a no-smoking policy for school grounds, which includes vaping, a relatively new practice.

An electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, is a handheld device which vaporizes a liquid. The user inhales the vapor, a practice known as vaping. The liquid in e-cigarettes is sometimes made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavorings. They are supposed to be safer than tobacco cigarettes, but longterm health effects aren’t known.

Sponnoble said she contacted Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties in Johnstown, which helps school districts develop policies.

According to the agency’s website, Catholic Charities has an Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities program in which coordinators “educate and mobilize community members and organizations of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties to strengthen both organizational and municipal tobacco-related policies.”

Sponnoble said she asked Catholic Charities to provide the Johnstown school system with recent “sample” policies.

She expressed hope that the district’s Wellness Committee can address vaping. The committee consists of parents, students, the district’s Food Service Program, school board, school administrators and members of the public.

The district has a “tobacco-free school environment policy” adopted in 2010.

The district’s 2013 no-smoking policy states: “Tobacco use shall not be permitted and no person shall use tobacco on school grounds or within 100 feet of the entrances, exits, or outdoor areas of any public or private elementary or secondary schools.”

The policy adds: “Tobacco is defined to include any lighted or unlighted cigarette, cigar, cigarillo, pipe, bidi, clove cigarette, spit/spitless tobacco and any other smoking or tobacco product, (smokeless, dip, chew, snus and/or snuff) in any form … The use of e-cigarettes and any other products containing nicotine, except for current FDA-approved smoking cessation products, are also prohibited.”

Sponnoble said the district should also have updated signage related to vaping on school grounds. She said there are harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes.

Kilburn asked whether a review of the current board policy on smoking or code of conduct is in order.

“I’m going to figure out the best way to do that,” the superintendent said.

In other action:

∫ Board President Kathryn Zajicek said she conferred with Johnstown Public Library Director Erica Wing about the possibility of the facility becoming a school district library.

“She said she would keep us in the loop,” Zajicek said.

∫ Facilities Committee Chairman Evamarie Mraz reported on a recent tour of a Glove Cities Industrial Park building the district is now leasing for its buildings and grounds department.

“I must say it was absolutely amazing,” Mraz said.

She said the new site has organized supplies, workshop area and plenty of clean spaces.

By Patricia Older

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