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)

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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.


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