Youth e-cigarette usage climbs in Cedar City; council considers ordinance

Stock photo | St. George News

CEDAR CITY — After hearing a presentation by the Iron County Prevention Coalition Wednesday night, Cedar City Council is considering an ordinance that would impose restrictions on e-cigarette sales to help keep them away from community youngsters.

The Prevention Coalition examines data to identify and prevent potential problems, said Heidi Baxley, the coalition’s coordinator and Southwest Behavioral Health Center prevention specialist.

“Right now, our best source of data is called the ‘sharp’ survey,” Baxley said, “which stands for the student health and risk prevention survey that was given here and throughout the state.”

The survey asks youth, grades 6 through 12, about drug abuse, suicidal thoughts and antisocial behaviors. Through a grant, the coalition sampled Iron County kids and found what Baxley described as a “disturbing trend up” in children’s lifetime use of e-cigarettes.

“We are trending up almost above the state average,” she said. “We increased from 7.4 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent of our youth that have ever tried using e-cigarettes; and our 30-day-use rates have increased from 2.3 percent to 9.3 percent – so, they’ve tripled.”

The increase is a direct reflection of the accessibility of the product, Baxley said, as proven time and again through studies about products like alcohol and tobacco.

Iron County is home to 42 retail operations that distribute e-cigarette or vaping products, 33 of which are located in Cedar City, Baxley said. Four of those within city limits are tobacco specialty shops. Altogether, the outlets service a population of around 47,000 people.

Ashley Whiting, school counselor at Cedar Middle School, spoke from a school administration perspective. E-cigarettes and other vaping products have been consistently confiscated from students at the elementary, middle school and high school level, she said.

“It’s pretty disturbing for me to think about a 7-, 8-, 9- or 10-year-old using some of these items,” Whiting said, “but we have had incidents on all three levels — multiple incidents.”

Students are not shy about their e-cigarette usage either, she said. They have been caught using the products during assemblies, in classrooms, at lunch, on the bus and in other areas on campuses of Iron County Schools.

Students have reported acquiring the products from friends and siblings, Whiting said, and by stealing them from parents, specialty tobacco shops or gas stations. Some parents don’t take the issue as seriously as they should, she said, offering an example:

Just last week we had a situation: A parent was brought in because a student had been caught using a vape pen. And the parent said, ‘Well, it’s just flavored water, it’s not really harming them.’

The truth is, Whiting said, there is a lack of regulation for these products and it isn’t always known what ingredients are used in the liquid that is used in these machines.

The demographics show that many students caught with e-cigarettes are good kids who come from good families, she said. They are, however, at a critical stage of brain development when impulse control and reasoning skills can be an issue.

Whiting said that vape products are targeted towards children. With more than 7,000 flavors of e-juice carrying names like gummy bear, cotton candy and sour patch kids, she said, it is impossible to overlook.

Jill McKinlay, Southwest Utah Youth Center assistant program director, said another concern in this new trend is the misappropriation of e-cigarette devices for drug use, explaining:

Anything that is liquid, they are using in this form and it’s very concerning to us. As juvenile justice services, we are not always able to test the substance to know; and when our youth come into our detention center and are under the influence and we have no idea what they are under the influence of, we need to send them to the hospital to follow up so they can be medically cleared.

The city was asked to consider creating ordinances that would keep new tobacco specialty shops from opening in Cedar City, Baxley said. (see ed. note)

“You see most communities South of us have done so,” Baxley wrote in an email to Cedar City News. “The only logical next stop for these vendors is Cedar City and we don’t need another one.”

City Council members also discussed the possibility of requiring stores who are already vendors of these products behind counters so kids wouldn’t be able to gain access to them as easily

City Attorney Paul Bittmann agreed to look into state law and work on a city ordinance. The matter was tabled for future consideration by the council.

Editors note: An earlier version of this article stated that Cedar City  was considering an ordinance that would make vendors store e-cigarette products behinds counters to prevent children from having access to them. However, the City Council was also considering additional action which would prevent new tobacco specialty shops from opening in Cedar City, and this story has been updated to reflect this information.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • ladybugavenger February 4, 2016 at 10:29 am

    The problem with kids today is that the government is raising them. Parents need to raise their kids and not rely on government ordinances and laws to blame. Trying to be the nice parent doesn’t work. Kids are out of control and if people would stop saying he’s such a good kid, or she’s such a good kid when they are not, there would be some order. Saying they are good when they are not is frankly, mental abuse. And people wonder why “Johnny” is a bully on the playground. Why is “Johnny” doing drugs, he’s such a good kid. no “Johnny” is jacked up. Recognize and help your kids. Too many people standing up for bad behaved children. Just stop mentally abusing the children and rewarding bad behavior, the government likes to do this and parents follow suit because of fear.

    • ladybugavenger February 4, 2016 at 10:41 am

      I hear”…” Coming in about my kids…let me tell you when my husband and I are 2 people and there’s a group of people and family included saying they are such good kids and they don’t live with them. Who are my kids gonna believe, the masses? Or 2 people? Yep, my kids believed the masses, and my kids really thought they were good. I saw their issues but everyone was against me. That was a warfare. But they are 21, and 20 now and finally seeing I had their best interest at heart. Not the masses. And I know other parents feel it. It’s abuse to enable…..Help the kids see or there gonna be 30, 40, 50+ and not have a clue.

      • IDIOT COMMENTERS February 4, 2016 at 5:24 pm

        u shoulda took ur kids to church, and i’m sure ur drinking never helped…

        • .... February 4, 2016 at 9:17 pm

          LOL ! The only person talking about ladybugs kids is ladybug !
          Sober up !

    • .... February 4, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Well its normal for an alcoholic to blame society for their problems. that way they don’t have to be responsible.
      It’s the same pathetic whining B.S that’s its the white man’s fault for Native Americans having drug and alcohol issues.

      I married a white girl because I took the responsibility of making sure my kids didn’t have to live their lives classified as half breeds.

    • .... February 5, 2016 at 2:39 am

      The only person talking about your kids is …..>>>>> YOU !

  • Mandi February 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Ok what people need to understand though is that these products are NOT “e-cigarettes”. Stop labeling them something that they are not. Can these products contain nicotine? YES. The exact same way that a pepsi can contain a shot of whiskey, There is no difference. I do not see a call for an ordinance against soda pop because children drink it and it “could” contain alcohol. THESE ARE NOT TOBACCO PRODUCTS PEOPLE!!!!! EDUCATE YOURSELVES!!!

  • mr.washington February 5, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    oh so adults don’t enjoy flavors like bubble gum and sour patch kids as well?

    • .... February 5, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      LOL ! Mandi is waaaaaay out there on that one

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