LOUISBURG — “What is a vape?” a teacher asked colleagues during a staff meeting two years ago in Louisburg.
Everyone knows now, Louisburg High School Principal Jeremy Holloway told the Louisburg City Council during its Nov. 4 meeting.
Holloway attended the meeting to ask council members to consider changing the legal age in which people can purchase tobacco products and vaping materials from 18 to 21 in Louisburg. The city of Paola recently changed its ordinance to raise the minimum age in which tobacco products could be purchased in that city to 21. Holloway would like Louisburg to do the same.
He said vaping has become a major epidemic among youth across the United States, and Louisburg is not exempt from it.
The LHS principal told the City Council that a few weeks ago the high school’s auditorium was packed to capacity for an assembly and, for the first time in several years, included the middle school for a presentation on vaping. The presenter, Blue Valley school district educator Christopher Jensen, told the audience that vaping among high school age students has gone up 75 percent in the past two years.
Dr. Jensen said vaping is now shown to have faster negative effects on the lungs than smoking, vaping has proven to be a huge gateway to using other harmful things, and that deaths and vape-related illnesses are rising.
Holloway related an anecdote about a student and recent LHS graduate who came to him to talk about a vaping problem that had turned into using marijuana.
Principal Holloway said the student broke down in his office as he described how he was having a hard time making it through the day without using and couldn’t focus on anything but wanting to use it again. “He was addicted.”
Proponents of raising the tobacco age to 21 say 18-year-old students across the country are buying vapes on their way to school and then selling vapes to younger students at high schools and middle schools.
Mayor Marty Southard, who is a counselor at LHS, brought up the topic of raising the age limit at an earlier meeting in October.
Some City Council members expressed concern at that time about raising the age limit. They said if a person can die for their country and vote at age 18, then they are old enough to make their own decisions about tobacco use. The council did not take action on the item.
After Holloway’s presentation, city staff was directed to research the topic of raising the age limit to purchase tobacco items from 18 to 21 and it was placed on the council’s Nov. 18 agenda. At that meeting, City Administrator Nathan Law said in a memo that 507 governments — including cities, counties, 18 states and the District of Columbia — had raised the tobacco-purchasing age to 21.
Paola and Newton are the two most recent municipalities to raise the age limit in Kansas, according to the memo. They join 19 other Kansas communities as well as Douglas, Johnson, Kansas City/Wyandotte and Shawnee counties that have done likewise.
After a brief discussion, the City Council took no action on the item.