Ames Police See an Increase in Teens Smoking Vapor Products

AMES, Iowa  --  Despite widespread anti-smoking campaigns, the Ames Police Department said it's seen a small rise in nicotine use among teens, not in the form of cigarettes but with vapor products.

The Ames Police Department has taken a pledge to keep all kinds of tobacco and nicotine products out of the hands of Ames youth. It's called the I-PLEDGE program and is a partnership with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division to educate local retailers and enforce Iowa's tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor product laws.

The Ames Police Department said, just like cigarettes, it is illegal for any person under the age of 18 to use any vapor products containing nicotine.

The School Resource Officer for the Ames School District, Nick Schieffer said, “smoking vapor products has become more popular among teens because it doesn't have a very strong smell, so they are more likely to get away with it.”

This is why Ames police are conducting compliance checks on local establishments like gas stations, to make sure all laws continue to be followed. Under the officer's supervision, they ask a 16 or 17-year-old to pose as a customer.

“When they go in to make a purchase, if they’re asked for their license they provide their own license, if they’re asked what their age is they provide their real age. The whole idea behind the program isn’t to trick the retailers, it’s to be very straightforward and to make sure they’re actually taking the time to check I.D.s of the people that come in and buy tobacco or vaping products,” Schieffer said.

The police department said these compliance checks are extremely effective. Every year they do random checks to approximately 50 establishments and each year about two or three clerks are cited for illegal underage sales. The citation for selling to a minor is $100 to the person who sold the product and $300 to the establishment.

The Ames Police Department said when someone is caught selling to an underage person, it is normally never intentional.

“They might have other things on their minds like all humans do, for the same reason that maybe I pull someone over because they ran a stop sign. and they say, 'ope sorry, I was thinking about having to pick my kid up from daycare or what I’m going to make for dinner tonight or my boss is on me.' So people can become distracted, but it's still important that we enforce those rules regardless,” Schieffer said.