Clearing the smoke

Newly filed e-cigarette bill aims to curtail teen addiction


Kaylee Aguilar

Vaping continues to be a prevalent issue affecting teens throughout the United States. Texas Sen. Nate Johnson proposed bill SB1332 in attempt to counteract the vaping epidemic. This bill requires store owners selling nicotine products to have a comptroller-verified tax permit.

Shivi Sharma, Staff Writer

A feeling of extreme lightheadedness, mind buzzing with the brightness of the surrounding world, the smallest occurrences warranting a giggle. Those euphoric highs plummeting to withdrawn, desperate lows.

Such is the cycle of addiction induced by e-cigarettes and vaping, causing the intake of drugs with detrimental lifelong effects. Adolescents nationwide are caught in it, a microcosm of which can be seen in Coppell.

From students keeping e-cigarettes and vape pens on their person, to them flocking to bathrooms to consume the products, the issue of nicotine addiction quite literally hangs in the air at Coppell ISD.

“It’s not just a high school age problem; we’ve seen it trickle down to the middle school level,” CISD Safety and Security Coordinator Rachael Freeman said. “If you saw a middle school kid smoking a cigarette [a couple years ago], that was pretty shocking. Today, it’s very common for us to see middle school students with e-cigarettes. The trend just changed.”

Texas Sen. Nathan Johnson (District 16) filed bill SB1332 to the Senate on Feb. 28. The bill outlines putting e-cigarettes under the same tax as general tobacco products. It aims to more strictly regulate purchase by minors.

If SB1332 is passed, stores selling nicotine products will be required to have a tax permit verified by the state’s chief financial officer, the comptroller. This permit will tax each milliliter of product 50 cents at purchase and can be revoked by state officials if the store bypasses state law to sell to minors.

The bill has received support from six Texas senators: Charles Perry (R), Jose Rodriguez (D), Charles Schwertner (R), Kirk Watson (D), Royce West (D) and Judith Zaffirini (D). Sen. Johnson suggests the sponsorship shows the issue of addiction among teens goes beyond party divides.

“Shop owners will have a strong incentive to check IDs whenever they sell a nicotine delivery device,” Johnson said in an article to the Dallas- Fort Worth Hospital Council. “Clearly, the health of our kids and long-term public health costs are not partisan concerns. I think parents across the state will agree.”

However, some question whether an adjusted tax code will truly keep addicted minors from usage.

“It depends how much money it is, but since it’s such a widespread problem, I don’t know if we’ll see the number of people doing it go down,” CHS sophomore Lauren Myers said.

The fact physical stores are no longer the only source to purchase vapor products makes the problem more difficult to control.

“A lot of what I’ve heard is that youth are purchasing these devices online, [and] it sounds like that bill is really targeting physical places,” Freeman said. “What I do know about addiction is if there’s a method of getting it, they’re going to find that method, regardless of if it’s legal or illegal.”

The recent shutdown of the Han Gil Hotel in Dallas adds to the reality that Coppell is far from immune to drug issues. More are becoming aware of the severity of the problem after multiple presentations informing CHS students and parents about vaping, drug usage and distracted driving.

This includes “Shattered Dreams”, a student-led drinking and driving presentation held every two years. These programs encourage students to evaluate their current decisions and recognize the harm that can be done through their actions.

“I hope that, if anything, the students that have gone through [these programs] will take a moment and think about long-term consequences,” Freeman said. “It’s really difficult as a young teenager to have the foresight of, ‘If I do this today, is it really going to affect me when I’m 25 or 30?’”

Educating teens through programs can be particularly difficult, and the fact that e-cigarette usage is so common at school has normalized it among teens to some degree.

“People being ignorant about [the issue] annoys me,” Myers said. “If I were to say something like ‘hey, can you not do that’ in the car with somebody, I look weird because it’s kind of accepted [among teens].”

Ultimately, the main goal of the education the district is trying to provide to students is awareness.

“It all comes down to addiction,” Freeman said. “The earlier that you expose your body to that type of use, the harder it is for you to recover. What I really want to see is awareness. If you’re going to put these poisons into your body that you know and that you’re willing to accept the repercussions.”

On March 7, the bill was read for the first time, and on March 19, Sen. Judith Zaffirini (District 21) was authorized as co-author. The bill is currently in committee and must cross over to the second chamber of representatives to either be passed or vetoed.