Morris approves ordinance creating citation for vape usage by underage persons

A vape detector in a boys restroom Tuesday, March 5, 2024, at Huntley Middle School in DeKalb. The school is piloting a vape detector program in hopes of curbing the use of vape products among youth in the community.

The City of Morris approved an ordinance Monday that adds a fine to the punishment for underage people who get caught using vapes or e-cigarettes.

Mayor Chris Brown said the city’s attorneys and the school came up with this ordinance to provide some teeth, as e-cigarettes and vapes have become a big problem at the high school.

Police Chief Alicia Steffes said the current law and state statute only allows for enforcement on those selling cigarettes to someone underage, and they took possession out of the law. This means the police don’t have a way to prevent people under 21 from having tobacco products.

“Vaping is the big concern,” Steffes said. “It came to light due to the vaping issues that all the high schools are facing right now. It’s a common issue for those under the age of 21. They’re vaping instead of smoking cigarettes.”

Jeremiah Farrell, Assistant Principal at Morris Community High School, said e-cigarette and vape usage is one of the more common disciplinary issues he deals with, second only to cell phone usage. He said it’s becoming more of an issue by the day and the school is looking to put in more vape detectors in the bathrooms.

One bathroom at the school already has one, and it regularly catches students.

The idea behind the citation is that it will get parents involved. Farrell said whether a citation will be issued is discretionary, and it’s like a student will need to get caught a few times to receive one. The school doesn’t want to become a burden on the parents, but it wants to have a deterrent to help parents get involved once they find out their child is using a vape.

“From my past experiences, giving kids tickets of this nature definitely puts a higher burden on parents, so hopefully the behavior won’t happen so frequently in the schools,” Farrell said.

Farrell said the overwhelming majority of the vapes found in school are nicotine vapes.

Morris isn’t alone in combating teen vaping: Huntley recently installed vape sensors in its schools and the Kane County Health Department has recently partnered with Elgin schools to create a youth vaping prevention program.

According to a March 8 Kane County Chronicle article, nicotine can harm brain development in children and young adults, and most liquids used in vaping devices contain nicotine.

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec covers Grundy County and the City of Morris, Coal City, Minooka, and more for the Morris Herald-News