A new law that goes into effect Aug. 10 is aimed at steering Hilliard juveniles toward the resources needed to escape tobacco addiction, especially vaping.
The new law, stemming from legislation Hilliard City Council approved July 11, stiffens existing state law concerning consequences for using, buying and possessing tobacco and vaping supplies by those under the age of 21 in the city of Hilliard, said Dawn Steele, the city’s staff attorney and prosecutor.
But it also establishes a diversion program for juvenile offenders.
While the new law provides stricter penalties, its goal is to protect the health of juveniles and young adults in Hilliard, according to Steele.
“This ordinance is geared toward protecting young people in our community from the significant health and safety risks associated with youth vaping and tobacco use. We know that vaping and tobacco use are significant health threats, and that lifetime habits like smoking often begin in the teenage years,” Steele said.
“By addressing this now through education and enforcement, we hope to reduce the health issues today’s children will face, such as problems in brain development, heart disease and lung disease today and later in their lives,” Steele said.
The new law imposes a penalty for using, buying or possessing tobacco and vaping supplies by anyone under 21, makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to falsify information, such as using a fake ID, to obtain tobacco and electronic smoking devices and bans all e-smoking devices and component parts by anyone under 21, Steele said.
An exception, required by state law, applies to those individuals in a medical-marijuana program or employed at a marijuana dispensary, butno such facilities are in Hilliard, according to Steele.
The owner of Twin’s Café Hookah Lounge, 3891 Main St., said he already performs what Hilliard’s new law sets forth.
As a café that offers tea, coffee and food, customers under 18 are permitted in the business.
“But no one under 21 can purchase tobacco; we always check IDs,” but if a parent of a child under 21 is with him or her, then the person under 21 can use tobacco on the premises, said owner Zed Abunijim.
Twin’s Café and Hookah Lounge opened in September of 2015.
The new law includes opportunities for treatment and education through diversion programs available for juveniles ages 9 to 17, and adults ages 18 to 20.
Steele said many of the charges resulting from this new ordinance will likely come from Hilliard police through school resource officers at the three high schools and three middle schools.
“We worked closely with Hilliard City Schools in developing an approach that is tougher than state law. We also are creating a youth diversion program to help treat those found guilty of breaking this law. That program will focus on educating youths and parents about the health risks of these products,” Steele said.
The district’s safety team and Hilliard police school resource officers are to meet before the start of school to finalize the details of the program, Stacie Raterman, director of communications for Hilliard City Schools, said July 26.
The first day of classes at Hilliard City Schools is Aug. 17.
“The goal is not to be punitive, but to inform our community. While the dangers of tobacco use are well known, there is a perception among many that vaping only creates harmless vapor. The reality is research is showing the health effects of vaping are often worse than with traditional cigarettes. We plan to offer education to parents and youths caught with these devises, as well as nicotine cessation and other needed treatment,” Steele said.
The new program is to be coordinated through the city’s existing recovery court and is to have access to resources and staffing currently in place with the Franklin County Juvenile Court, according to Steele.
The district is eligible for parent and student substance abuse education grants through the Franklin County Educational Service Center.
The city is to charge participants of the diversion program $100 to cover new costs.
While the recovery court already allows for diversion options, vaping and tobacco violators are to be an option when the law takes effect Aug. 10, Steele said.