Ty Roberts, a 14-year-old Ellison High School student, said he knows people who smoke electronic cigarettes and have seen other kids with them in the hallways at school.

“They try to sell them,” he said at the mall on Sunday, explaining there were definitely more during Christmas this year to give to others as presents.

In line with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory hearings currently going on, Killeen Independent School District is also finalizing its restrictions and regulations on the newly popular electronic cigarette.

Any student caught possessing, giving, selling or using the vaporizing devices or any associated liquid nicotine products will face disciplinary action if school board members approve Killeen ISD’s new 2014-2015 student code of conduct handbook at its July 8 meeting.

Officials said while they have not seen a significant problem in Killeen ISD schools, the policy revision will align the new form of cigarettes with the district’s already-stated ban on all nicotine and nicotine-related products.

Like all tobacco products in Texas, a person must be 18 or older to purchase them.

“There’s a new move with this liquid nicotine, also known as ‘blu’ or e-cigarettes, and this will help protect our students... against something that’s actually becoming quite common now, nicotine poisoning,” said Joseph Welch, executive director of student services for the district.

A relatively new device, electronic cigarettes have risen in popularity since the mid-2000s and caused mixed reactions regarding their safety.

By using a battery powered vaporizer that heats a concentrated dose of liquid nicotine, the pipe looks like a small cigarette, yet does not produce the smell and smoke a traditional cigarette does.

The liquid nicotine cartridges also come in a variety of flavors like bubble gum or spearmint, which critics said gives them a wider appeal to young adults and children.

Nationwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention averaged one call a month since 2010, but calls involving liquid nicotine poisoning spiked to 215 in February.

Poisoning from the liquid nicotine in cigarettes can happen by swallowing the liquid nicotine, inhaling it, or absorbing it through the skin or membranes in the mouth and lips or eyes. Once it is in a person’s system, nicotine can cause nausea, vomiting or seizures.

While e-cigarettes are currently unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the organization is in the middle of nationwide public hearings on how to regulate the industry. The hearings will end Aug. 8.

Still, even with the new ban on the device, 16-year-old Killeen High School student Olivia Morrison said kids will continue to find ways to smoke them anyway.

“I don’t see what’s so wrong with it,” she said. “Sure, kids will get caught now but then they’ll just go somewhere else to do it.”

Board members recognized the presence of and rise in use of electronic cigarettes on campuses in January, and approved policies banning the use, sale, advertising, and clothing related to liquid nicotine, by adding it to the student code of conduct.

Parents and students will be clearly informed of the midyear change in conduct rules before school begins in the fall.

Contact Courtney Griffin at cgriffin@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7559

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