COLUMBUS — Lakeview Community Schools took a proactive step last week to prevent people from using electronic cigarettes on district property.

The district’s board of education approved a new policy that adds e-cigarettes to a list of prohibited products that already included cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.

Superintendent Russ Freeman and Lakeview Junior/Senior High School Principal Steve Borer both said the district hasn’t had issues with students using e-cigarettes while at school, but the change was recommended by the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

“We’re basically being proactive in adding what they strongly suggest,” Freeman said.

Borer said the district’s goal is to get ahead of the growing trend before it becomes a problem at the school.

Electronic cigarettes heat liquid nicotine into smokeless vapor, but don’t contain tobacco. The battery-powered devices have become popular among people trying to kick cigarettes since the nicotine level can be slowly lowered over time.

Because the e-cigarette “juice” can be purchased in a variety of flavors, from gummy bear to Mountain Dew, there also is a concern that the products will become a favorite among teenagers.

With this in mind, the Nebraska Legislature approved a bill this year that bans minors from buying or using e-cigarettes, although many specialty stores, such as JnJ Vapor in downtown Columbus, already required customers to be at least 18 years old.

Versions of the devices also can be purchased at many convenience stores.

Lakeview students face a short-term suspension for violating the district’s tobacco-free policy, which also extends to staff members and visitors.

The policy covers district facilities and vehicles, including during events not sponsored by Lakeview.

Another adjustment to the policy approved last week does allow staff members to wear nicotine patches or chew nicotine gum as part of a smoking cessation program.

However, the patches and gum packages can’t be visible to students.

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