A bill that would ban tobacco products and vaping in Kentucky public schools passed through a state House Committee Thursday.
Republican Rep. Kim Moser from Taylor Mill is sponsor of the measure. She said the ban would send a message to students.
“I think that it’s very important that we set certain expectations for our students and stop normalizing tobacco use,” Moser said during the hearing.
The measure would ban vaping and tobacco products not only inside schools, but also on school property like sports fields and on school trips. If the bill becomes law, individual school districts would have until July 2020 to implement. Enforcement would also be up to school boards, though the bill does say that school employees would be required to enforce the policy.
The bill passed out of the House Health and Family Services committee and now heads to the full House for a vote.
Franklin County Superintendent Mark Kopp spoke at Thursday’s hearing. He said his district adopted a similar ban in 2011.
“We saw a very large decrease in the percentage of tobacco usage over the last several years,” Kopp said. “It has been one of the best things … giving us teeth to be able to build into our discipline policy the ability to take action when we do find someone who’s using a JUUL [vaping product].”
The measure has the backing of public health advocacy groups like the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Kentucky Cancer Foundation. The Kentucky School Boards Association also supports the bill. Moser said the measure also has support of the tobacco and vaping industry.
Juul Labs, which controls about 70 percent of the e-cigarette market, announced in November that it would stop selling flavored vaping pods in retail stores and that it would stop social media marketing. That came right before the federal government passed several measures to stop teens from using the devices.
Kentucky lawmakers have introduced statewide smoke-free legislation in past years, but measures have never gained much traction.
About 57 percent of Kentucky public school students attend schools that already have a smoke-free policy. In 2017, a little more than 14 percent of Kentucky high schoolers reported smoking traditional cigarettes. About the same number reported vaping.
Teens who use e-cigarettes and other cigarette alternatives are nearly twice as likely to later smoke traditional cigarettes, compared to teens who never use those alternatives. That’s according to research published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association.