FARMINGTON — Two school districts recently updated their smoking and tobacco policies to prohibit the use and possession of electronic cigarettes on campus.
This month, Aztec Municipal School District's and Bloomfield School District's school boards approved updates to the tobacco and smoking policies for staff, students and members of the public who smoke on school grounds. Among the updates was a ban on products like e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices powered by a battery that simulate smoking a cigarette. E-cigarettes produce a smoke-like vapor when a heating element vaporizes a liquid solution. The solution uses a liquid mixture of nicotine and flavoring or just flavoring to produce the vapor.
Use and possession of such devices on properties owned by Aztec and Bloomfield school districts is now prohibited.
E-cigarettes and their use by minors is not currently regulated on a state or federal level.
State Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, is introducing a bill that would prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, require vendors to verify identification at time of purchase and restrict vending machine sales and online purchases of e-cigarettes.
"It's not something we want to support on a state level," Bandy said.
Bloomfield School District Superintendent Joe Rasor said his district already has a strict no-smoking policies, and he does not want to encourage the use of e-cigarettes.
"It's a worthwhile endeavor that we don't want to encourage it in any way, shape or form. I've seen adults use electronic cigarettes, and it seems a little surreal," Rasor said. "If students are using electronic cigarettes as a way to show off, if we allowed it, it would be like we were supporting it."
Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said the change in his district's policy was a recommendation from a policy service the district subscribes to from the New Mexico School Boards Association.
In a notice published in November, the association stated policies for most districts are enough to prohibit use or possession of e-cigarettes, but a lapse in policy was found regarding prohibition of smoking.
The updated policies approved by Aztec and Bloomfield school boards included modified language for prohibiting smoking. The updates also expanded the policy for student tobacco prohibition to include use or possession of "man-made tobacco derivatives and products or smoking of any kind."
"The justification others have had for making this sort of policy is they're showing some of the e-cigarettes have negative effects," Carpenter said.
The risk in minors using e-cigarettes is the potential for nicotine addiction, said Sugar Singleton Marcy, medical director and physician for San Juan Health Partners in Aztec.
"There is a concern that they are developing a negative health pattern, which is likely to lead to a nicotine addiction," Marcy said. "That's a huge concern. I'm in favor and advocating the steps the schools are taking."
Marcy said a teenager's or a child's body is more prone to addiction than an adult's body. But she believes e-cigarettes can help adults who are trying to quit smoking cigarettes.
"These products haven't been on the market long enough to know the detrimental effects of them," Marcy said.
James Preminger, spokesman for the Central Consolidated School District, said e-cigarettes fall under the district's drug and alcohol policy, which prohibits use of controlled substances. The policy prohibits nicotine use and the use of inhalants.
The Farmington Municipal School District has policies in middle and high schools that prohibit use or possession of tobacco and nicotine products, according to Frank Stimac, the district's assistant superintendent for security and communication.
Stimac said it's possible future changes to the policy will mention e-cigarettes, but the district does not currently have plans to update its policy.