EDWARDSVILLE — Madison County officials voted Wednesday night to ban vaping devices for people under the age of 21 in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The County Board approved the ordinance to raise the legal vaping age to 21 years old. The change brings the county’s ordinances in compliance with the state statute, but also makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess/use a vaping device or similar product in unincorporated Madison County.
“This is something we can do for public health and the safety of our youth,” County Board member Chrissy Dutton of Bethalto said.
Dutton said she brought the matter forward to the Judiciary and Health committees, both which she serves on, after receiving an email from a concerned parent last fall. The Public Safety and County Institutions committees also discussed the matter.
“This matter was discussed by four different committees, so the Health Department Committee formed an anti-vaping committee,” Dutton said.
Dutton, along with board members, Mike Parkinson of Granite City and Michael “Doc” Holliday of Alton, and the Madison County State’s Attorneys Office reviewed area municipal ordinances that forbid under-age vaping and then add a component covering prevention and treatment.
Since the state changed its rules and raised the minimum age of smoking to 21, officials felt it was necessary for the county to update its ordinances to reflect the state law.
The ordinance now gives law enforcement the ability to enforce the ban.
Parkinson said that the focus by the sub-committee is more to deter youth from vaping and getting treatment for those who do use.
“It’s not just a punitive ordinance, it’s designed to help first time offenders and get them off vaping products,” he said.
Youth found in possession of e-cigarette items could be fined up to $200 for a first offense. A second offense within 36 months could be met with a $400 fine. The fine could be waived if they agree to take and “satisfactorily” complete an educational program within 90 days.
Businesses or individuals providing e-cigarettes to someone underage could face a $650 fine.
A federal law went into effect in December prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. It did not address possession.
Regional Superintendent of Schools Robert Werden presented information at the County Institutions meeting stating vaping in all Madison County schools and there are reports of kids’ vaping as young as third grade.
Werden said statistics from 2016 to 2018 show the number of students who vaped in eighth grade were 50 percent; 10th grade, 58 percent; and 12th grade, 86 percent.
“The legal age to purchase vape products is 21 years old, however there is no legal age to possess it,” he said.
Dutton said it’s disturbing to see the rising rates of vaping use among minors.
“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, we need to make sure they understand the consequences of what happens when they use these products,” she said.