BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Several efforts are underway to minimize the impact of vaping and e-cigarette usage in public and with underage users.
On Thursday, the Fort Madison Police Department issued a statement indicating they will be utilizing the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division’s I-PLEDGE program to help keep tobacco and vaping products out of the hands of underage users.
Also on Thursday, the Lee County Board of Health signed off on a position statement that Lee County Health Department Administrator Michele Ross will be presenting to Lee County Supervisors advocating for banning e-cigarettes and vaping instruments from all smoke-free areas in the county.
On Wednesday, Governor Kim Reynolds’ office announced it was launching a new vaping awareness campaign aimed at informing teens about the realities and consequences of vaping.
Two videos linked here: https://idph.iowa.gov/tupac/vaping-information/for-teens?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery are posted on the state’s Iowa Department of Public Health.
“As a mom, grandma, and governor of Iowa, I believe we have an opportunity and a responsibility to combat the teen vaping epidemic,” Gov. Reynolds wrote in the release.
“By increasing awareness and education on the known risks of vaping, we can help prevent our young people from setting themselves up for a lifelong addiction to nicotine. Working together as a team we can address the issue holistically, and effectively reach teens and parents with the right information.”
According to figures from the IDPH vaping has more than doubled nationally since 2017. Today more than 1 in 4 high school aged youths vape and 1 in 9 high school seniors report vaping almost daily. IDPH also indicated that one vaping pod is the equivalent of smoking 20 cigarettes.
The county board of health, in its statement, indicated it supported a prohibition of the use of e-cigarettes in state and local smoke-free air regulations and policies in order to maintain current standards for clean indoor air and prevent involuntary exposure to nicotine and other aerosolized emissions.
The board is also encouraging strategies that reduce e-cigarette use among youth and restrict youth access to the products in retail settings. Those strategies, the board wrote, could include licensing retailers, implementing price policies and strategies to curb advertising and marketing that appeals to young people.
Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff said the I-PLEDGE places the emphasis on retailers to help curb the underage usage of the products.
“I-PLEDGE’s retailer training is a great way for clerks to prepare themselves to refuse illegal tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor product sales,” he said.
“The training also assists retailers to ensure they maintain a compliant and responsible establishment.”
Rohloff said FMPD officers will be conducting compliance checks on local establishments as part of the program. Underage customers, under the supervision of law enforcement officials, will try to purchase tobacco and related products. Citations of up to $500 for two or more offenses will be given on site for any violations.
“By partnering with Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, we hope to educate clerks and maintain a compliant retail environment in our community,” Rohloff said.
“Moreover, we pledge to help keep tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products out of the hands of Iowa’s youth.”