Lakeway City Council discusses amending vaping policy at special meeting

Lakeway City Council is examining ways to curb underage vaping. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Lakeway City Council is examining ways to curb underage vaping. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Lakeway City Council is examining ways to curb underage vaping. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Image description
Lakeway Mayor Pro Tem Laurie Higginbotham led a discussion on vaping policy Jan. 13.
Lakeway City Council Member Laurie Higginbotham headed a policy discussion on vaping within the city during a special Jan 13 meeting.

Higginbotham said through her involvement with the Young Mens Service League and her two school-age children she has been hearing more and more about how ubiquitous the issue of underage vaping has become.

Vape devices are made to look like tech hardware such as flash drives, and because of this it is easy for children to hide the behavior.

"Administrators estimate that as much 50% to 70% of kids at Lake Travis High School have at least tried vaping," Higginbotham said, adding she surveyed students at the high school, and responses indicate students are in fact experimenting with vaping at alarming numbers.

Higginbotham also presented data showing Texas has the record for the youngest fatality from vaping, a 15-year-old who died in December in the Dallas area.

The aim is to partner with Lake Travis ISD, local health leaders and law enforcement to create ordinances extending smoking laws to include e-cigarettes and vaping, as well as ordinances restricting sales near schools, Higginbotham said.

"I think we need to look at making it more difficult for teenagers to get these products," she said, comparing her initiative to the fact that smoking rates dropped once nationwide policies surrounding cigarettes grew more strict.

Lakeway City Attorney Kimberly Kelley said there are several ways to tackle the issue.

Restricting areas within the city where people can vape is one example of something city officials can look into to address the issue locally, including banning vaping within a certain distance within a school.

"We just need to explore further [if that variance proposal would be challenged]," Kelley said.

Council Member Sanjeev Kumar said he recently started vaping in order to quit smoking but agreed underage vaping in Lakeway is a problem that needs to be addressed. Kumar said whatever ordinance may be added to the city code, officials first need to figure out if it will be enforceable.

Mastrangelo agreed with Kumar and said anywhere smoking is not allowed in the city, vaping should also be banned.

"Unless we can do something that won't get us into trouble with a lawsuit later ... I would want to see what kind of ordinances we could do," Mastrangelo said, adding he does not want to take away an adult's right to vape privately.

Higginbotham also stated she has no compunction about going after businesses if they are selling tobacco and vaping products to minors.

Council agreed to continue looking at amending the city's existing smoking ordinances to include vaping at its Jan. 20 meeting, as well as exploring parameters for creating more educational outreach on the issue.

"This isn't a problem with just one solution," Higginbotham said. "It's going to take a lot of effort."
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018. From there he became a dual-market editor for Community Impact's New Braunfels and San Marcos-Buda-Kyle editions. Brian is now a senior editor for the company's flagship papers, the Round Rock and Pflugerville-Hutto editions.


Photo of ACL Fest
Zilker Park closes in preparation for Austin City Limits Music Festival

Zilker Park closes in preparation for Austin City Limits Music Festival

As part of budget action, Lakeway adopted a lower tax rate from the prior year. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Lakeway City Council approves FY 2021-22 budget

As part of budget action, Lakeway adopted a lower tax rate from the prior year.

Austin city staff and officials are pursuing additional protections related to mold issues in rental housing. (Courtesy city of Austin)
City pursuing improvements to handling of Austin renters' mold complaints

New recommendations from a report launched in the wake of Winter Storm Uri detail adjustments Austin could make to its mold response.

Students at O. Henry Middle School in Austin head in for their first day of school Aug. 17. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD's COVID-19 rate lower than nearby districts after first month of school

Austin ISD recorded more cases in the first month of this school year than in all of the 2020-2021 school year. Still, Austin ISD saw a lower percentage of cases in students than surrounding school districts.

Wayback Burgers specializes in cooked-to-order burgers and hand-dipped milkshakes. (Courtesy Wayback Burgers)
Wayback Burgers coming to Leander; fire kills 75 dogs in Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

School in the Hills has two locations in the Lake Travis-Westlake area. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Guide: Private schools in the Lake Travis-Westlake area

Learn about tuition and extracurriculars offered at area private schools.

Screen shot of Dr. Desmar Walkes speaking
Austin ICUs remain crowded with COVID-19 patients, delaying some critical care

Within the past week, there was a waiting list of patients to be transferred into Austin-area ICUs, Austin Public Health leaders said.

The city of Austin this summer cleared four unregulated homeless encampments and shifted dozens of residents into shelters. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plan to house thousands of Austin's homeless people taking shape, but outlook for local success, project funding still unclear

The strategy's first housing benchmark fell short in June, and updates on how the estimated $515 million needed for housing and services will be spent are overdue.

DATA: How population changed in Texas counties between census counts in 2010, 2020

Texas added nearly four million people between 2010 and 2020, according to the latest Census data.

BoxLunch opened Aug. 27 in Barton Creek Square at 2901 S. Capital of Texas Hwy., Austin. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
New dining, clothing retailers now open or coming soon to the Lake Travis-Westlake area

Along with new retailers, area residents now have new health care providers from which to choose.

The widening project is on track to finish this fall and the bypass project by early next year. (Courtesy Texas Department of Transportation)
TxDOT projects near RM 2222 and RM 620 intersection approaching completion after delay

The southbound bypass lane connecting the two roads is on track to be complete later this fall, weather permitting. The northbound bypass lane opened over the summer.