School Board Eyes Staff Vaping Prohibition

The Loudoun County School Board is considering an update to its staff policy that seeks to create a tobacco-free environment to also restrict “electronic or other smoking devices” in protected school zones.

Policy 7552, formerly titled “Tobacco-Free School Zone,” has been altered to “Tobacco and Smoke-Free Environment,” as the school system continues to deal with the emergence of vaping, which uses an electronic device to heat a liquid form of nicotine into vapor, instead of burning it through combustion. Other passages altered in the school system’s staff policy include prohibiting “electronic or other smoking devices” in addition to smoking or using oral tobacco products.

The school board’s Human Resources and Talent Development Committee provided an update to the School Board during its April 23 meeting following a review of the policy in March. A board vote is planned for the May 14 meeting.

According to Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Hough, who led the committee’s review, the changes to the staff rules are part of a cyclical review process, specifically looking at the personnel policy and how it relates to providing work environments free of exposure to second-hand smoke.

The staff policy was last updated in 2016, and there is a separate student-specific regulation known as Policy 8240, which was last updated in October 2017. “The recommended changes are intended to better mirror the student policy,” Hough said.

The language is designed to cover “vapes and Juuls,” Hough said. A Juul is a single-use e-cigarette that was introduced in 2015. The device, along with similar electronic cigarettes from other manufacturers, has since created what public health officials describe as a youth e-cigarette “epidemic,” according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The organization notes that e-cigarette use among high school students rose 78 percent in 2018, with more than 3.6 million middle and high school students using the devices—an increase of 1.5 million from 2017.

The staff policy applies to all county school buildings, vehicles and facilities, as well as all visitors. Employees who violate the policy are subject to discipline, including potential termination, while visitors may be asked to leave school property.

Hough noted that committee members also sought to make the policy more expansive with the changes. “The committee discussed including broader language as we continue to see additional smoking devices, but it’s not possible to anticipate all future contexts,” she stated.

The student version of the policy contains a more specific list of prohibited items. Titled “Alcohol, Drug, Tobacco and Electronic Cigarettes,” Policy 8240 enumerates in more specific terms the types of smoking and tobacco products that are banned to include “cigarettes, cigars, blunts, bidis, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, electronic smoking devices … and liquids used in electronic smoking devices to vape, whether or not they contain nicotine.”

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