WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Tom Udall (D-NM) today introduced the Smoke-Free Schools Act of 2019 to help school districts and local education agencies address the surge of e-cigarettes in schools. The legislation would ban e-cigarette use in educational and childcare facilities and lays outs findings to support the conclusion that e-cigarette use in schools and among youth has reached the level of a public health epidemic. The full text of the legislation is available here. A one-page summary of the bill is available here.
“In my home state of Utah, the use of electronic cigarettes has nearly doubled in the last five years, with young Utahns most likely to be introduced to vaping while they are in school,” Romney said. “By banning the use of electronic cigarettes in schools, we are taking an important step to protect the health of young people in Utah and across the nation.”
“Across America, high schoolers are receiving their hard-earned diplomas – but we cannot stand by as millions of students graduate to a life-long nicotine addiction courtesy of electronic cigarettes they picked up in school. While e-cigarette companies have promised to address the alarming rates of youth vaping – they continue to use enticing flavors and deceptive marketing tactics to hook an entirely new generation of children on tobacco products in order to fatten their profits,” said Udall. “The enormous progress we made in reducing youth tobacco use is now in serious jeopardy in New Mexico and across the country. Our schools are on the front lines of this epidemic, which is why I am proud to take strong action with Senator Romney to ban e-cigarette use in schools to protect the public health of our students and their families.”
The use of e-cigarettes and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) has increased at an alarming rate in schools and among today’s youth. More than three million middle and high-schoolers use e-cigarettes today, and from 2017 - 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded a nearly 48 percent increase in e-cigarette use among middle schoolers and a nearly 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high schoolers. The problem is even more acute in New Mexico, where 24.7 percent of New Mexican high school students have used e-cigarettes—higher than the 13.2 percent of high school students nationally who had used the devices.
The legislation has received support from a wide range of groups, such as The National School Boards Association (NSBA), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, The School Superintendents Association (AASA), The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), The American Lung Association (ALA), and New Mexico PTA.
“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,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti.
“AASA is pleased to endorse the Smoke-Free School Act of 2019. Superintendents and other school system leaders have long dealt with the effects of youth nicotine addiction in our schools. This legislation is a common sense proposal that is serious in addressing the impact of nicotine—regardless of delivery system—on student health, productivity, safety and outcomes. We commend this legislation as a step forward in helping school leaders ensure their school systems continue to provide safe learning environments and that the use of tobacco products among minors is discouraged as much as possible,” said AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech.
“Every child deserves to attend a school free from the dangers of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and other harmful electronic nicotine delivery systems,” said Jim Accomando, President of National PTA, the nation’s oldest and largest child advocacy association. “National PTA is pleased to support the Smoke-Free Schools Act of 2019 and applauds Senators Tom Udall and Mitt Romney for introducing the bill to explicitly prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in schools.”
“Although many teens use e-cigarettes because they think they are cool, the facts show they present a major health hazard,” said Elaine Auld, MPH, MCHES, Chief Executive Officer of the Society for Public Health Education. “Schools have a vital role to play in educating students about good health habits, and banning e-cigarettes in these educational settings gets at the heart of prevention.”
“The National School Boards Association appreciates the leadership of Senators Udall and Romney to support safe and healthy learning environments for our nation’s 50 million public school students,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO of NSBA. “The Smoke-Free Schools Act of 2019 will provide school districts with greater flexibility in addressing a key component of the Every Student Succeeds Act — to foster healthy, supportive, and drug-free environments conducive to academic achievement. This legislation will help inform the work of our school boards and educators in implementing programs to educate students against the use of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes; and, in facilitating professional development and training for prevention, early identification, intervention mentoring, and recovery support services.”
“The NMNPED Health and Wellness Bureau has already started spreading the message about the dangers of E-cigarettes. We fully support this legislation and commend Senator Udall for recognizing the importance of this issue,” said Dr. Karen Trujillo, Secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department.
The Smoke-Free Schools Act of 2019 would:
Prohibit e-cigarettes in schools:
- The bill clarifies the Pro-Children Act of 2001 to state that e-cigarettes and other ENDS should be included in smoking bans on smoking in educational and childcare facilities.
- The bill establishes findings supporting the assertion that e-cigarette use has become a public health epidemic 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.
- Highlights Congress’s policy-setting role in ensuring youth tobacco is discouraged to the maximum extent possible.