LAKE FOREST — All laws and ordinances in Lake Forest which regulate smoking tobacco now apply to vaping.
The Lake Forest City Council unanimously amended three local ordinances pertaining to smoking December 18 at City Hall outlawing the use of electronic smoking devices in all places tobacco smoking is banned and making it illegal for anyone under 18 to vape.
Lake Forest Police Chief Karl Walldorf asked the council to change the law after receiving a letter from Michael Simeck, the superintendent of schools for Lake Forest Community High School District 115 and Lake Forest School District 67.
“Superintendent Simeck reached out to us to discuss the problems they are having with these devices at the schools,” said Walldorf. “We have two officers assigned to these schools and they had been running into these problems for several years. When these ordinances were passed electronic smoking devices didn’t exist.”
Mayor Rob Lansing hinted before the vote that electronic smoking devices can be used for inhaling much more than the nicotine contained in tobacco suggesting teens could also ingest dangerous drugs.
“With the creativity of the entrepreneurs basically every chemical compound known to man is available to be smoked,” said Lansing. “They have an enormously powerful potential to do damage.”
In his letter to the council, Simeck, who referred to vaping as juuling, wrote the problem is more severe at Lake Forest than at other “peer” schools in the area. He said it was a passing fad elsewhere but “in our school it has continued unabated.” He said the problem is greater in the high schools than the District 67 schools.
Devices resemble the flash drive of a computer and are charged by inserted them into the USB port of a computer. He said one puff is the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana can be inhaled in the same way.
“Students from literally every social group, age, interest and engagement level use and express little or no inhibition about being caught with the devices,” said Simeck in the letter. “When asked ‘would you bring a pack of cigarettes to class or smoke on school grounds’ students respond with a quick ‘of course not.’”
Simeck said in an email to DailyNorthShore.com he is not certain why the problem is more severe in Lake Forest than other school districts but he believes one reason may acceptance of the practice among teens rather the ostracization what comes with other forms of smoking like tobacco.
“As you can imagine, for adolescents that is a fact of significant consequence,” Simeck said in the email. “Also, students are largely unaware of the health consequences of vaping.”
Lake Forest Police Detective Ben Grum, the student resource officer assigned to the high school said electronic smoking devices are “very widely used across all social and economic classes” at the school. Like Simeck, he cites the lack of a societal frown as a reason.
“More students are willing to vape because there is no social stigma attached to it like there is to smoking,” said Grum. “It’s clean and hard to detect. All of the flavors are fruity, fun type of flavors. It’s the Joe Camel for today’s kids.”
Grum said with the passage of the new law, behavior which was previously against school policy is also illegal.
Turning THC into a liquid form to vape makes smoking marijuana almost undetectable without scientific testing in a laboratory, according to Walldorf. He said there is barely an odor and the ingestion is very quick.
The THC ingested electronically is much more concentrated and powerful than what would be smoked in a marijuana cigarette, according to Grum.
Though the school has had policies in place about vaping using the devices was not a violation of the law. Grum said now that vaping is illegal arrests can be made, equipment can be confiscated and tested in a lab.
“Now the school would be able to turn it over to me as a city ordinance offense if the school wants to do that,” said Grum.
Simeck said he believes a community wide effort is needed to curb the problem.
“There is much educating that remains to be done in the parent community as well as among students,” said Simeck in the email.