New legislation creates diversion program for minors caught vaping

A new law that will take effect on August 10 aims to steer young people in Hilliard to the resources needed to escape addiction to tobacco, especially vaping.

The new law, resulting from legislation approved by the Hilliard City Council on July 11, strengthens existing state law regarding the consequences of using, buying, and possessing tobacco and vaping supplies. by those under 21 in the town of Hilliard, said Dawn Steele, town staff. lawyer and prosecutor.

But it also establishes a diversion program for juvenile offenders.

While the new law provides for harsher penalties, its purpose is to protect the health of minors and young adults at Hilliard, according to Steele.

“This order is intended to protect youth in our community from the significant health and safety risks associated with youth vaping and smoking. We know that vaping and tobacco use are significant health threats, and lifestyle habits like smoking often begin in adolescence,” Steele said.

“By addressing this problem now through education and law enforcement, we hope to reduce the health issues that today’s children will face, such as brain development issues, heart disease and lung disease now and later in life,” Steele said.

The new law imposes a penalty for the use, purchase or possession of tobacco and vaping supplies by anyone under the age of 21, making it a first-degree misdemeanor to falsify information, such as using of a fake ID, to obtain tobacco and electronic smoking devices and prohibits all e-smoking devices and components by anyone under the age of 21, Steele said.

An exception, required by state law, applies to people participating in a medical marijuana program or employed at a marijuana dispensary, but neither of those facilities are in Hilliard, according to Steele.

The owner of Twin’s Café Hookah Lounge, 3891 Main St., said he is already enforcing what Hilliard’s new law sets out.

As a cafe offering tea, coffee and food, customers under the age of 18 are permitted in the business.

“But no one under 21 can buy tobacco; we always check IDs,” but if a parent of a child under 21 is with them, then the person under 21 can smoke on the premises, owner Zed Abunijim said.

twins cafe and Hookah Lounge opened in September 2015.

The new law provides treatment and education opportunities through diversion programs available to minors ages 9-17 and adults ages 18-20.

Steele said many of the charges resulting from this new order would likely come from Hilliard police through school resource officers at the three high schools and three colleges.

“We have worked closely with schools in the city of Hilliard to develop an approach that is stricter than state law. We are also creating a youth diversion program to help deal with those found guilty of breaking this law. This program will focus on educating young people and parents about the health risks of these products,” Steele said.

The district safety team and Hilliard Police Academy resource officers are to meet before school starts to finalize program details, said Stacie Raterman, director of communications for schools at the town of Hilliard, July 26.

The first day of classes at Hilliard City Schools is August 17.

“The goal is not to be punitive, but to inform our community. Although the dangers of smoking are well known, many believe that vaping only creates harmless vapor. The reality is that research shows that the health effects of vaping are often worse than with traditional cigarettes. We plan to provide education for parents and young people caught with these devices, as well as nicotine cessation and other necessary treatment,” Steele said.

The new program should be coordinated by the city’s existing restorative court and should have access to the resources and staff currently in place with the Franklin County Juvenile Court, according to Steele.

The district is eligible for parent and student substance abuse education grants through the Franklin County Educational Services Center.

The city is to charge diversion program participants $100 to cover the new costs.

While the recovery court is already allowing diversion options, vaping and tobacco offenders must be an option when the law takes effect Aug. 10, Steele said.

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About Irene J. O'Donnell

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