Tobacco smoking - Smoking cessation
Ease of access to vaping products was cited, repeatedly by locals, as a big reason why so many youth in Teton County have become addicted to nicotine-based e-cigarette products.

JACKSON, Wyo. — Elected officials in Jackson have begun to pursue vaping restrictions of some kind after directing staff to look into an ordinance that would ban the sale of flavored vaping products in Jackson.

Town council is considering an ordinance banning the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products. Last week, when the electeds met for a workshop, there were suggestions to push for tougher restrictions than just the sale of flavored products in favor of banning all vaping products.

Vaping products are widely available in Teton County. Town Council hopes to slow the trend by banning flavored nicotine products, which have been acknowledged to attract younger users. Photo: Courtesy TOJ

Town of Jackson attorney Lea Colasuonno was asked to refine a draft ordinance to make “unlawful for any person to sell or offer for sale any flavored tobacco product to a person.” Colasuonno modeled the law after a similar ordinance adopted by the Town of Pinedale.

Several community members have been outspoken in their appeals for legislation of some kind to prevent minors and young adults from obtaining and using nicotine products.

Gillian Chapman, superintendent of Teton County School District #1; Beverly Shore, the community prevention specialist for Teton County Public Health; Pier Trudelle, principal of Summit Innovations; and Heather Franklin, addiction specialist at Curren-Seeley are among those who gave testimony to the town council on the perils of vaping, specifically, in the valley.

“In the past three years, there has been a noticeable increase in the use of e-cigarettes among the teens in Teton County,” Franklin stated in a letter to the council. “Adolescents are initially attracted to e-cigarettes, or vape pens, in part because of the varietal sweet flavored vaping products. A ‘Monitoring the Future’ survey showed 66% of teens are not aware that these candy-flavored liquids contain nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that can rewire the developing brain of teens and prime it for addiction. For most teens, vaping is the first nicotine product they will try.”

Finley Miller, a senior at the Community School, provided a student’s perspective, as well.

“From what I have seen with my peers is that people who are still vaping are the ones who are grossly addicted,” Miller said. “When vaping started to become more popular a few years ago, everyone did it because it was considered cool. Now, as the schools and the community have been doing more to restrict vaping, the people who are still using are the ones who physically can’t stop.”

Miller and Trudelle blamed easy access to vaping products as a big reason why addictions persist.

“A majority of my students have experienced addiction and struggle to get [free]. Part of that is the ease to obtain these products,” Trudelle said.

How they voted

Colasuonno explained to town leaders the nuances between new state legislation, scheduled to take effect July 1, and what a local ordinance might look like, and how it could harmonize with new state statute. For one, the state is redefining ‘tobacco’ products as those that contain nicotine. New state law will also prohibit the sale of nicotine products to anyone under the age of 21; currently, it is 18 years old.

Some council members leaned toward more restrictive legislation such as banning the sale of all vaping products containing nicotine or making it unlawful to use vaping pens and similar products in public spaces. In addition to prohibiting the sale of flavored nicotine products in Jackson, the council is exploring an amendment to current municipal code prohibiting smoking in public buildings and parks within town limits.

Councilman Jim Stanford said he wanted to be mindful of legislating access to nicotine products for adults, believing some nicotine-addicted users might return to smoking conventional cigarettes, leading to more dangerous secondhand smoke scenarios, if vapes were taken away.

Sgt. Tony Matthews agreed, adding people would turn to cigarettes or dip if they could not get liquid solutions.

“Hearing the public comments, it is very distressful for me to learn what an effect this is having on our town’s youth, especially considering the current pandemic and how their health will be affected even further,” said vice-mayor Hailey Morton Levinson at Monday’s workshop. “If this is the most minor thing we can do, I think we are all in support of it. When we can make a difference like this, I will, and I know the rest of the council will.”

The town council agreed unanimously to direct staff to prepare an ordinance for 1st reading at the May 4 regular meeting.