Possession of an e-cigarette by a minor is now a fineable offense in Waterloo, per an ordinance amendment approved last week by the city council.
This step was taken in hopes of curbing what has been described as an epidemic in the local schools.
The council voted in favor of revising its code of ordinances dealing with alternative nicotine products, which are defined as a “product or device not consisting of or containing tobacco that provides for the ingestion into the body of nicotine, whether by chewing, smoking, absorbing, dissolving, inhaling, snorting, sniffing, or by any other means.”
All persons under the age of 18 found in possession of an alternative nicotine product will be issued a city ordinance violation in the amount of $50. A second offense is subject to a $75 fine and the third offense carries a $100 fine.
An e-cigarette is a handheld electronic device that simulates the feeling of smoking tobacco. It works by heating a liquid to generate an aerosol, commonly called a “vapor,” that the user inhales. E-cigarettes contain carcinogens and chemicals that can cause respiratory problems.
Alderman Clyde Heller said this city ordinance is similar to one approved a few years ago dealing with public fighting that has been successful in greatly reducing in-school scuffles.
“If it works effectively with a few folks, word will spread through the schools real quick,” Heller said of the new measure.
Current state laws make it illegal for underage people to possess tobacco, but not all e-cigarettes have nicotine in them, making it cost and time prohibitive to test each one that is confiscated.
According to the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey, 48 percent of 12th graders in Monroe County reported using e-cigarettes within a 30-day period. That number was 24 percent and 10 percent for 10th and eighth graders, respectively.
Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron said e-cigarette use among junior high and high school students is significant in his district and has increased in recent years.
A first offense warrants an in-school suspension. Repeat offenders are punished with an out-of-school suspension, he said.
Charron and Waterloo High School Principal Lori Costello recently spoke to the Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities about the rising trend of e-cigarette use among students.
Two WHS students attended this meeting, saying they estimate about 60-70 percent of the student body uses e-cigs.
Costello said they confiscate more than two dozen e-cigs a month at WHS.
After a recent crackdown by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the large e-cig maker, Juul, announced it will stop selling most e-cig flavors in stores and cease its social media promotions.
“The seller is already supposed to verify the age. Kids are still getting their hands on them somehow,” Heller said, explaining that young adults are buying these products and sometimes giving or reselling them to minors.
In other action from the Nov. 19 meeting, the Waterloo City Council voted to amend its trash collection agreement with Reliable Sanitation to add a temporary recycling surcharge of 60 cents per month for each household to help defray increased costs associated with bulk recycling.
Reliable Sanitation of Waterloo has seen costs of processing co-mingled, or curbside recyclables increase 400 percent in only a year.
“About a year ago we paid $12 to $15 a ton for curbside recycling,” Reliable Sanitation owner Tim Scheibe said recently. “This summer, it jumped to the $65-70 range. In September it was $79 a ton.”
After the U.S. lodged tariffs on some products imported into the country from China, which imports about 90 percent of all U.S. co-mingled recycling, China changed the purity threshold from double digits to a maximum of 5 percent contaminants. The result is more processing steps, with cost increases associated with each, that recyclables have to go through before China will accept them.
The surcharge takes effect Dec. 18 through April 2019 and then will be revisited.
Columbia recently passed the same temporary surcharge for its residents.
“We are simply matching what Columbia has approved as a surcharge also since the cost of recycling has risen drastically,” Waterloo collector/budget officer Shawn Kennedy said.
Reliable Sanitation also reminded local residents of acceptable and prohibited items for recycling. For a full chart, go to republictimes.net/changes-to-recycling-coming-to-county.
Recyclable items should not be bagged, the company said, and all liquid containers should be rinsed. Among the prohibited recycling items are plastic grocery bags, used disposable dinner ware, plastic toys and soda straws.