Why is a Chicago Suburb Punishing Teens That Vape?

In this small Chicago suburb, teenagers who vape suffer for their sins

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Laws vary, but most municipalities don’t punish kids who vape or smoke. Usually the most severe penalties go to the retailers who sell adult products to minors. Face it, you’d have to be a really bored cop in a really boring city to spend your day arresting teenage vapers and smokers.

Welcome to Park Ridge, Illinois.

The police department in Park Ridge urged the City Council to create penalties for possession and use of vapes, according to the Chicago Tribune. The police said students bringing e-cigs to school had “become problematic.”

So Park Ridge passed a law in July providing for punishment of minors in possession of an “electronic smoking device.” According to the Tribune, vapers under 18 can be ticketed and made to appear at a hearing. There they can receive a $500 fine — or they can be sentenced to the ultimate punishment: mandatory attendance at a two-hour “diversion and education program” with their parents.

Face it, you’d have to be a really bored cop in a really boring city to spend your day arresting teenage vapers and smokers.

Park Ridge is a northwest Chicago suburb near O’Hare Airport. The population of the Cook County city is about 37,000. Park Ridge is the hometown of Hillary Rodham Clinton and actor Harrison Ford. Harrison probably never did anything as awful as vaping when he was a teenager.

Eight teens have been ticketed by the Park Ridge Police Department since the law passed. Police Chief Frank Kaminski told the Tribune that the tickets do not result in criminal records for the teenage scofflaws. All the tickets were issued at local high schools, and all eight violators appeared at a hearing on Oct. 10.

City officials said that all eight were given the boring lecture “education” program as punishment.

The first education class was held in late October, led by Teri Collins, executive director of the Maine Community Youth Assistance Foundation, described by the Tribune as “an organization that aims to curb youth substance abuse.” Three of the delinquent teens attended the class, along with their parents.

Part of the punishment includes paying Collins’s organization $125 to attend the class. How many of the parents wished their rotten kids had just gotten the $500 fine after being forced to attend a two-hour class dedicated to the perils of vaping?

"When people are known to have goals, they are less likely to do alcohol or drugs or smoke.”

“It wouldn’t be successful if the parents didn’t come,” Collins told the paper. She explained that many parents are woefully ignorant of the dangers of vaping. Luckily Collins has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, and “a background in prescription medication development, research, and education.”

The chemistry degree must come in handy when she explains “the chemical properties of nicotine and vaping oils” (which, chemically speaking, aren’t oils at all). Collins also explains the risks to the teenage brain of using nicotine — probably avoiding the truth that the supposed risks have been inferred based solely on rodent studies.

“Then we talk about goals,” Collins told the Tribune. “When people are known to have goals, they are less likely to do alcohol or drugs or smoke. That’s a research-proven fact.”

Another research-proven fact is that vaping isn’t smoking. Not smoking is a goal for some people.

Jim McDonald
Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy