Carmel City Council debates vaping ordinance

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CARMEL, Ind. (WTHR) - The numbers are startling.

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that one in five high school students have vaped at least once in the last month. In Carmel, students could openly vape at school, but Hamilton County's largest city wants to change that.

Carmel, known for its roundabouts, is taking more of a direct route when it comes to its vaping problem.

"It's a huge health issue. One of those cartridges is the equivalent of 20 cigarettes," Carmel City Councilor Sue Finkam said.

Finkam has proposed an ordinance to toughen the city's vaping laws by banning it in public places like schools, libraries and bars.

"We are also adding public places to include multi-use paths, trails like the Monon Trail and our public parks," she said.

"I have three kids in the Carmel school system," said Dr. Cynthia Meneghini. "Two of them are in high school, who avoid going to the bathroom at school because there is so much vaping."

"I know every time in specific lunch bathrooms, every time, there will be four girls in one handicap stall because they are sharing their JUUL, every lunch," Carmel Junior Isabel Jensen said.

Jensen has made it her mission, in pursuit of a Girl Scout Gold Award, to help educate her peers and adults alike. She recently spoke at a Carmel City Council committee hearing about the extent of the problem.

While Carmel is winning the war on smoking, which dropped from 25% in 2000 to 7% in 2019, vaping is taking up the void, increasing from 3% to 25%.

"A lot of kids who are vaping don't even know what's in it," Jensen noted. "They have no idea."

Dr. Meneghini does.

"In one single JUUL cartridge, there is as much nicotine or more than is in an entire pack of cigarettes," she said.

Jensen believes the ordinance will help.

"I think it will greatly reduce the number of people vaping. I mean, obviously, people still smoke cigarettes, people are still going to JUUL, but I think it will greatly help," she said.

The ordinance is up for for another hearing on June 26 at 6 p.m., where Finkam is hoping she will get more public feedback.

In Indiana, one must be at least 18 years old to buy vaping products. There's a complete indoor ban of vaping in Indianapolis. There's a partial indoor ban in Greenwood.

California has some of the country's toughest vaping laws. You have to be 21 to buy e-cigarettes and there is a complete indoor ban in the state.