Revised Atlanta Public Schools drug policy would prohibit vaping

Atlanta Public Schools could revise its drug and alcohol policy to specifically prohibit vaping.

The school board's policy committee has recommended updating the rules, and the first draft of the suggested policy rewrite will be reviewed at the board's Dec. 2 meeting.

The existing policy prohibits "the use of all tobacco products." The proposed changes would add a longer, more comprehensive list of banned substances and devices to include not just cigarettes and cigars but also vapes, electronic cigarettes, vape pens, drip pens, water pipes like hookas, "heat not burn" products, and "other emerging tobacco-related products."

There's been a rise in the use of e-cigarettes among youth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes has increased from 3.6 million in 2018 to 5.3 million this year.

Kristen Holtz, an APS parent whose health communications firm develops anti-vaping curriculum, suggested the district update the policy to include more devices that are now on the market.

She said she wanted to remove “ambiguity” from the policy and make it more up-to-date and comprehensive.

The revised policy would position APS as a leader when it comes to student health, said school board member Cynthia Briscoe Brown, who heads the policy committee.

“We are trying to make it clear that we don’t much care what you call it but we’re not going to let you do it,” she said, at a Nov. 25 committee meeting.

Students who violate the drug and alcohol policy are subject to penalties up to and including suspension or expulsion and arrest and prosecution.

The policy was last revised in 2013, according to board documents.

The student code of conduct already specifically prohibits vaping and bars the possession and use of "cigarette look-alikes" such as electronic cigarettes.