WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced The Smoke Free Schools Act of 2018 to help school districts and local education agencies combat the surge of e-cigarette use in schools. The legislation would ban e-cigarette use in educational and childcare facilities, and clarify that state and local education agencies can use grant funding for e-cigarette prevention programs. It would also instruct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to partner with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Education to study best practices for schools to implement policies to address rising e-cigarette use among students and gaps in knowledge about the potential dangers of e-cigarette use among youth and young adults.
In recent years, the popularity of e-cigarettes among young people has skyrocketed, with more than two million middle and high-schoolers using e-cigarettes today. The problem is even more acute in New Mexico, where 51.5 percent of New Mexican teens have used e-cigarettes—higher than the 42.2 percent of teens nationally who had used the devices.
“I am proud to join Senator Hatch in this important effort because e-cigarettes don’t belong in schools, and harmful chemicals don’t belong in our kids’ lungs,” said Udall. “These products use enticing flavors and stealthy designs to appeal to middle and high school students, fueling nicotine addiction and increasing their risk of tobacco use. This has lured a generation of kids into vaping and driven an epidemic among young people that’s reached truly alarming proportions. We’ve got to put a stop to this crisis – and that starts in our schools. This legislation would ban vaping at schools and enable education agencies to better direct funding toward combatting e-cigarette use. Our kids deserve to be protected from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, and I’m committed to pushing for strong action to safeguard the public health of New Mexico students and their families.”
“I am grateful to join Senator Udall in introducing this much-needed legislation,” said Hatch. “This bill will help teachers and school districts address the problems of e-cigarette use in schools and target nicotine addiction among today’s youth. Congress, the FDA, and the Department of Education have made great strides in the past 30 years to discourage teen smoking and nicotine use. Now, it’s important to continue that work in the context of new devices and technologies that have been shown to lead to nicotine addiction among today’s students.”
The legislation has received support from a wide range of groups, such as The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, The National School Boards Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE).
JoAnn Bartoletti, Executive Director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said, “While the ENDS industry’s profits skyrocket, we all suffer the loss of human potential that results from the damage caused by adolescent nicotine use. NASSP is proud to support this bill on behalf of the nation’s principals, and we welcome the partnership of federal agencies that seek to forestall the growing use of ENDS among our nation’s students.”
Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO of the National School Boards Association, said, “NSBA thanks Senator Hatch for his efforts to assist school districts in ensuring that students are in safe and supportive learning environments. With the ability to utilize Title IV funding to eradicate the use of e-cigarettes in schools, this legislation helps school boards continue implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.”
The Smoke Free Schools Act of 2018 would:
- The bill establishes findings supporting the assertion that e-cigarette use has become a public health risk in schools and among youth. The findings discuss the substantial increases in youth smoking in the past few years, as well as the dangers of nicotine addiction for people under the age of 18.
- Establishes Congress’ policy-setting role in ensuring tobacco is discouraged to the maximum extent possible.
- States that local education agencies should be given the greatest flexibility to target specific funding to efforts aimed at eradicating the problem of e-cigarette use.
Ban E-Cigarettes in Schools
- Amends the Pro-Children Act of 2001 to include e-cigarettes in smoking bans on educational and childcare facilities. Currently, standing law imposes restrictions on smoking in facilities where federally-funded children’s services are provided, including kindergarten, elementary, and secondary education.
Clarify That Federal Funding Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Can Be Used for E-Cigarette Prevention Programs
- Amends Title IV of ESEA to clarify that e-cigarette prevention is an allowable use of funds to promote safe and healthy schools
- As a result, state and local education agencies will be allowed to use grant funding via ESEA Title IV Part A and Part B to combat e-cigarette use through drug prevention programs. Currently, Part B is vague on whether or not e-cigarettes are covered – this provision would fix that
Require Collection of Data and Studies to Address Knowledge Gaps in the E-Cigarette Crisis
- Instructs the FDA to partner with the CDC and the Department of Education to conduct studies of best practices for schools to discourage e-cigarette use.
- It also instructs the FDA to study gaps in knowledge of the harms of e-cigarettes among adolescents and youth including injuries and poisoning.
- It seeks further information on the dose-response association between e-cigarettes and combustible tobacco, and the current efforts by schools to use federal funding to combat e-cigarette use.
- Finally, it instructs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider including e-cigarettes in any studies they do relating to the marketing effects of traditional tobacco.
The FDA, CDC, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have all played an instrumental role in identifying the health risks associated with nicotine use and addiction among youth. Their continued research into the risks associated with e-cigarettes and their work to address measures to reduce e-cigarette usage among today’s kids is vital. However, much remains to be done, especially in school settings, where e-cigarette use not only poses a health risk, but can be distracting for other students, difficult for teachers to detect, and result in a less healthy school environment.