RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — How close should a smoke shop be to a park? How about a school? Wake County leaders are looking at a rule prohibiting them from being too close, in an effort to curb teen vaping.
Melissa Verdicchio is the parent of a high school sophomore in the Wake County Public School System.
“Having a vape shop close to their campus, I mean, they’re going to go there if it’s there, so I’d rather it not be,” she said.
In its work session Monday, the Wake County Board of Commissioners discussed a rule prohibiting tobacco and hemp stores from being within 1,000 feet of schools and parks in the unincorporated parts of Wake County.
“We see this as important for our children in terms of public health,” said Cheryl Stallings, the Wake County Commissioner for District 3.
The county said the plan would impact 10 schools and Lake Myra Park, which under current rules could have a smoke shop open within 1,000 feet.
“We want to be proactive, and we want to be proactive in this measure to prevent that from happening,” Stallings said.
Stallings said Wake County School District leaders asked commissioners to consider this.
So, how big of a problem is vaping?
Numbers CBS 17 requested from the district show that 1,044 students violated the district’s Tobacco, Vaporizing, and Nicotine Products Policy last school year. That is a 21 percent increase from the year before.
Raleigh fire reports CBS 17 examined indicate that vaping and smoking were cited about three dozen times for the Raleigh Fire Department being called to Leesville Road High School last year when smoke alarms went off.
In the City of Raleigh, for example, there is a smoke shop about 400 feet from Broughton High School.
While Verdicchio believes the rule change would help, she’s not sure how much it would help.
“Unfortunately, even if your child doesn’t have it, another child will have it and let them use it, so there’s that side of it,” Verdicchio said. “If they have access to it from home or other places, or possibly a shop that’s closer to their home that may not be here, they’re going to find it.”
Given all the other ways teens could access the products, CBS 17 asked Stallings if the rule limiting the distance from a school would have an impact.
“Well, we hope that it will, and, you know we see our job as leaders to do something, you know, and to be proactive and to do all we can to instill healthy habits in our children, and so we think it’s important to do this,” Stallings said.
Stallings expects current stores to be grandfathered in, and that this wouldn’t apply to something like a gas station or grocery store selling the products.
Stallings said the Board of Commissioners continues to talk to cities and towns to see if they would want to partner on the effort. According to the county, Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale, Rolesville, and Zebulon already have restrictions on how far the stores have to be from schools.
The board is scheduled to vote on the issue next month.
The Wake County School District tells CBS 17 it uses lessons from the Stanford Tobacco Prevention Toolkit to teach students about the risks and dangers of e-cigarettes. The district said it also partners with Poe Health Center as it hosts the Youth Tobacco Forum each Spring.