Santa Fe school board considers taking, destroying vaping devices

April 3, 2019

Santa Fe school board members on Tuesday night discussed a potential new policy in which electronic cigarettes found on students would be confiscated and destroyed instead of returned to parents as personal property, which district officials said is currently happening in some cases.

After hearing from staff and students at Santa Fe High School that young people using vaping devices is becoming prevalent throughout the community, the board voted to send a letter to the mayor’s office to start a dialogue about citywide solutions that could include ordinances against opening vape shops near schools.

“Personally, I’m opposed to tougher sanctions like suspending the kids,” said Superintendent Veronica García, who told the board that principals tell her student use of e-cigarettes is also happening at middle and elementary schools.

“We do know that for teenagers in particular the scare tactics don’t work,” she said. “What works for them is social pressure where kids don’t think it’s cool to date somebody who vapes.”

Santa Fe High principal Carl Marano said 75 percent of the school’s disciplinary infractions this year are related to the devices, most of which contain addictive nicotine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Kids love gadgets, and kids love sweets, so put those two together and add nicotine and you have a perfect storm,” Santa Fe High art teacher Lori Andrews said of e-cigarettes, which are often marketed with different flavors. “A sweet-flavored, easy-to-purchase, hard-to-detect, nicotine delivery system. Welcome to to the world of vaping.”

Santa Fe High seniors Naya Anllo-Valdo and Dylan Ramirez, who both spoke in front of the board about the issue, told The New Mexican that while vape stores around Santa Fe have cracked down on selling electronic cigarettes to minors, 18-year-old students legally purchase the devices and distribute them to younger students.

“I think a lot of people think it’s better than smoking cigarettes. They think it’s fun and don’t understand that they are developing a serious problem,” Anllo-Valdo said. “On an administrative level, I think it is a disciplinary issue and there should be consequences, but it also should be treated like a health issue since it is an addiction.”

The board also discussed a public health issue related to vaccinations. Board member Steven Carrillo floated the idea of publicizing on the school district’s website the percentage of students at each school who have received exemptions from state requirements for immunizations.

However, the board did not act on the idea, with other board members citing the fact that district administrators say 2.1 percent, or about 260 of the district’s approximately 12,350 students, have received exemptions from the state department of health to attend school without immunizations.

“If we started to get closer to that 5 percent of students in any school aren’t vaccinated, then I think the board would need to be informed,” board member Maureen Cashmon said. “Right now I think the numbers are great. We would just like to know if they creep up.”