Minors can no longer legally use e-cigarettes in the city of Tomah.

The Tomah City Council approved an ordinance amendment prohibiting minors from possessing tobacco and vaping products and prohibiting the sale of both products to minors at the city’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the amendment.

Dr. Paul Skofronick, director of pupil services with the Tomah Area School District, said student possession of vaping products has become a big issue since the products began showing up on school grounds in 2015.

“To give you kind of an average ... traditional tobacco products — cigarettes, chew, snuff and cigars − we generally have about five busts a year at our secondary level, at sixth through 12th grade at our three secondary schools,” he said. “On average we’re hitting about 50 vaping devices a year since 2015.”

Skofronick said the the school district conducts an anonymous youth at-risk study through the state Department of Public Instruction to identify at-risk behaviors and give educators and communities an idea what’s going on and how to combat it.

The survey last year targeted freshmen and found that 50 percent have vaped at least once and 20 percent vape regularly, Skofronick said. Traditional tobacco products are irrelevant, he said; fewer than one percent use them.

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Vaping products are extremely cheap and easy to buy, said Skofronick. They can be found at any convenience store and can cost as little as 99 cents.

Tomah municipal judge Tom Flock said the present ordinance needed to be amended because when minors are caught with vaping products, it’s coming under smoking or tobacco and they’re not getting a ticket for vaping. He said the ordinance needs to be more specific.

“What we’re getting to is it’s a vaping device, that’s what we need to get into,” he said. “I need the teeth in this ordinance in order to do that.”

The amendment clarifies the ordinance to include detailed descriptions of vaping products, how minors are not allowed to possess a vaping product and prohibits the sale of the products to those under 18.

Vaping products are scary because of the chemicals that can be found in them, Flock said.

“On Saturday I was watching Good Morning America and they went into ... stores in California, and every store they went into and bought a vaping device, every one − 100 percent of them − tested positive for pesticides,” he said. “These kids, whoever they’re buying them from, you don’t know what you’re getting second-hand, it can really mess you up ... Right now I’d rather they go sneak a beer than vape because this is serious stuff, this is scary stuff what they’re lacing these with.”

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Meghan Flynn can be reached at meghan.flynn@lee.net.

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