RIVER FALLS -- River Falls School District is urging the City Council to consider pursuing an ordinance that would up the age required to purchase vaping products to 21 within city limits.

The board presented its concerns of dealing with the issue, calling it an “epidemic” at a joint council and school meeting Aug. 12.

Vaping poses a risk to students’ health and takes administrators’ time away from other academic and disciplinary needs in the district, School Board President Stacy Johnson Myers said.

“We want to make sure you know how serious of an issue this is for our school, we have school administrators not only in our school but in other school districts that describe this as an ‘epidemic’,” Myers said to the City Council.

Myers added she believes a conversation between council members and school resource officers would be helpful, as the board hears from the officers about behavior leading to expulsion which “too many times” includes vaping with THC substances.

Currently, the district has a policy in place banning the use and possession of e-cigarette products, tobacco and illegal substances which has punishable consequences up to and including expulsion.

The state permits the purchase of tobacco, cigarettes and vaping products at age 18; communities may enact tougher rules.

Superintendent Jamie Benson said with the limitations in place, the district is seeing students as young as freshmen vaping on school grounds and that “18 is not the magic age where they are beginning to vape.”

“I personally think it’s a position statement, it’s a value statement to go on record to say that this is a concern for us. It’s harmful. ... It will take probably decades to unravel the harm that’s already been done. But we did it with cigarettes, we, America, our society, have taken measures to cut back on teenage smoking of cigarettes and it’s going to take a lot of small actions to make this change unfortunately,” Benson said.

Benson said the School Board understands the council has much to consider including the University of Wisconsin-River Falls' stance on the issue, but the board would “feel remiss” if it didn’t ask the city to evaluate the proposal.