Pablo Robles

One of many vaping devices on the market.

Goodyear City Council didn’t just show up at its last meeting and suddenly decide, “Hey, gang, let’s raise the vaping age!”

The decision was a rather meticulous one, about a year in the making.

Last fall, councilmembers started discussing with Goodyear Police Chief Jerry Geier what some felt was “an epidemic” of vaping at Goodyear high schools.

Here is a summary of what led up to council’s vote to raise the age to purchase vaping and tobacco products to 21 and ban vaping in schools, parks and trails:

May 19:

Geier gave copies of a “yellow paper” to councilmembers.

Excerpts of “Electronic Cigarettes and Vaping in Goodyear Schools”:

 “The purpose of this yellow paper is to provide information regarding the issue of electronic cigarettes (vaping) and their increased usage in Goodyear schools. 

“Background and Problem Statement: … E-cigarettes entered the U.S. marketplace in 2007, and by 2014 were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school students according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their easy availability, alluring advertisements, various flavors, and the belief that they’re safer than cigarettes have helped make them appealing to this age group. 

“...More than 460 different e-cigarette brands are currently on the market, and they can resemble futuristic, mechanical cigars or look like everyday household devices such as thumb drives, inhalers, pens, lipstick tubes, sticks of gum, or erasers. The liquid in the e-cigarette is called e-liquid or e-juice. Most of the e-liquids contain highly concentrated nicotine along with other potentially toxic chemicals. 

“...Manufacturers of vaping products promote the premise that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional tobacco products, but there is increased evidence that vaping can be equally or more harmful to the respiratory system than tobacco cigarettes. 

“... In Arizona, studies show that while consumption of traditional cigarettes has gone down, youth consumption of e-cigarettes has increased dramatically, with more than 19% of high school students now using these products. As a result, Arizona schools are spending increased time and resources combating this growing problem. 

“Arizona Laws: Under A.R.S. 13-3622, it is illegal for a minor under age 18 to purchase or possess e-cigarettes or vaping products … School Resource Officers (SROs) report that students at Goodyear schools have confessed to purchasing vaping products easily at local smoke shops without being asked for proof of age. 

“Goodyear Schools: Incidents of e-cigarette use in local schools have increased dramatically in the last year. At Millennium High School, administration reported an increase in all tobacco and drug-related disciplinary actions, including vaping, from 36 incidents in 2017-2018 to 140 incidents in the current school year during the same timeframe. According to SROs, vaping materials are easily obtainable, and detection is challenging because students have become good at hiding paraphernalia. 

“Local schools have applied for funding for tobacco educational programs and have offered education programs for students and parents outside of the school day. Unfortunately, five schools report low attendance at these programs. For example, Millennium High School recently held ‘Vape Night’ evening presentation, and only had 25 attendees out of a student population of 2,200. 

“There are currently two bills making their way through the Arizona legislature that would change the way e-cigarettes and related products are regulated. S.B. 1147 would raise the age limit to purchase tobacco, e-cigarettes and other nicotine products to 21 years … H.B. 2357, would regulate e-cigarettes and vaping in statute along with tobacco as part of the Smoke-Free Arizona Act. This would prohibit their use in certain areas, raise the legal age for possession to 21, and require proof of age for online sales of vaping products …

“To date, neither of these proposed bills has passed out of the legislature.” 

Sept. 9: 

At a work session,  Geier, Deputy Chief of Police Justin Hughes and Assistant City Attorney Donna Bronski presented information on the proposed city code amendments regarding vaping regulations and restrictions. Hughes provided background information and data on incidents in Goodyear high schools. 

Council discussed varying fines, then came to an agreement:

Sept. 23:

Council unanimously passed the code change, banning vaping in city schools, parks and trails and raising the age to purchase vape and tobacco products to 21.

The fines:

“Penalties for any individual found guilty of violating the new city code shall be found guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by:

• A fine not exceeding $500 plus surcharges for a 1st violation within any 24 month period.

• A fine not exceeding $1,000 plus surcharges for a 2nd violation within any 24 month period.

• A fine not exceeding $2,500 plus surcharges for a 3rd violation within any 24 month period.

 Any enterprise found guilty of the requirements of this section shall also be guilty of a misdemeanor, and punishable by a fine not to exceed $20,000”