Western New York educators ask lawmakers for help fighting e-cigarette issue

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Education officials are taking their case to the Erie County Legislature, as they try to keep electronic cigarettes out of their schools.

Earlier this month, lawmakers signaled a desire to design legislation aimed at fighting the epidemic. That discussion continued Thursday, as seven educators and experts spoke to members of the Health and Human Services Committee.

“The problem of vaping is one of the most challenging that we’ve had and scary that we’ve had so far,” said Carol Townsend, the principal at Depew High School.

Townsend shared statistics on the trends in her school. She cited a 2017 survey, which showed nearly 60 percent of students have tried vaping. In the 2017-18 school year, Townsend says there were 49 instances in which students were caught with e-cigarettes. So far in the 2018-19 school year, with nearly half of it remaining, it’s happened 37 times.

“They’re also now vaping marijuana,” said Townsend. “So now we virtually have gotten to that point where kids can get high on something.”

“The dabs that we’re hearing about (contain) the equivalent on six-to-seven marijuana joints,” noted Anthony Scanzuso, the Assistant Superintendent for Exceptional Education and Student Services in the Williamsville Central School District.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has already expressed interest in increasing the legal age to buy e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 statewide. At the county level, lawmakers are trying to figure out what they can do.

It’s a rare bipartisan issue at Erie County Hall.

“The legislature is going to put out awareness about this,” said Legislator John Bruso, a Democrat who serves as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “We can write local laws and resolutions.”

“What I’ve been asking for the last couple of discusions: What can the Erie County Legislature do to tangibly affect the vaping epidemic that’s going on?” commented Legislator Joe Lorigo, a Conservative who serves as the legislature’s minority leader.

The conversation will continue on March 6th. Bruso is holding a public forum at the Lancaster Opera House.

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