Lake Mills now has an ordinance on the books regulating the possession and use of e-cigarettes and other vape products, barring minors from buying or carrying the devices and prohibiting their use on school grounds.
The new ordinance passed 4-1 at the city council’s Feb. 21 meeting. Councilmember Catherine Bishop voted against the rule, saying that school district policy already covered the issue and citing concerns about punitive action against minors who may have an addiction.
Violating the ordinance is not a crime, but can incur a fine as a civil infraction.
Lake Mills Police Chief Steve Schroeder first brought the idea to the council, where it was sponsored by member Michelle Quednow. Schroeder said his department’s school resource officer, Jessica Johnson, had approached him about the change.
“They’re more prevalent than traditional cigarettes, especially among youth,” Schroeder said. “A lot of these e-cigs were really marketed to youth.”
Schroeder said that while Lake Mills already had some rules targeting nicotine and other smoking products, there were gaps. For instance, he said, state statutes banning the purchase of nicotine products by minors applied only to fluid cartridges, rather than the devices those cartridges are used in.
“And there are already statutes that prohibit smoking on school grounds. This is just an extension of that,” he said.
The ordinance’s school grounds ban applies to anyone on school district property, not just students and staff.
“The school district is very on board with this, I don’t see any hesitancy on their part,” Schroeder told the council.
Bishop, the only council member to vote against the ordinance, said she “fail(ed) to see the need” for it, as school district policy already bans the devices on school grounds.
“The school board policies address this very specifically, and then they give the district administrator broad authority … they can ask you to leave, and if you don’t you are trespassing,” Bishop said.
Quednow countered that the ordinance would allow the police department to go further than the school district in enforcing the rule, citing students who might continue to bring the devices even after the school took action.
“It allows the school resource officer to go to the extent of garnering a ticket,” Quednow said. “It’s punitive, yes, but it’s a further reinforcement of the fact that those rules are in place for the safety of all.”
Bishop said she saw both sides of the issue, but ultimately had a difficult time with such punitive action against minors.
“Their brain isn’t fully formed, they may even be addicted to this substance,” Bishop said. “It seems to me that they need help at the school and parental level as opposed to the ordinance level.”