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Can Kentucky School Tobacco Ban Curb E-Cig Use?

Many vaping devices are very easy to conceal. (Vaping360/Flickr)
Many vaping devices are very easy to conceal. (Vaping360/Flickr)
February 12, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Health groups are optimistic legislation moving through the statehouse will help curb the burgeoning use of e-cigarettes among Kentucky teens.

HB 11 is advancing through the House, and if passed, will create a statewide policy prohibiting tobacco and nicotine use at K-12 schools. Mayfield High School senior Jake Petty said that includes e-cigarettes, also known by the brand name "Juuls," which are easy to conceal.

"A teacher couldn't leave a room and not have five people whip out their Juuls and start vaping,” Petty said.

Franklin County Schools implemented a tobacco-free policy in 2011, which Superintendent Mark Kopp said has drastically reduced use on school campuses and at sporting events.

“There are no secondhand smoke issues,” Kopp said. “And if there ever is someone who's using those products, this policy gives us the teeth to enforce that and put an end to that.”

About 9-in-10 adults in the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll supported tobacco-free school policies in their communities. Under current laws, 58 percent of Kentucky K-12 students are not protected by such a policy.

Petty said Kentucky already has the highest lung cancer rate in the country, and believes school personnel need to model healthy behavior to help reduce the trend of smoking and vaping.

"E-cigarettes are basically nicotine dispersal systems. That leaves a lot of danger for students who are juuling now to eventually go back to combustible tobacco products, and then we're stuck in the cancer cycle,” he said.

Smoking rates among teens have declined, while e-cigarette use has skyrocketed. Kopp contended it's one of the most significant health issues of the day.

"This is something that is scary because it's happening everywhere,” Kopp said. “And we need to do everything in our power as adults to educate our kids on the dangers of what this is."

HB 11 would not apply to possession of tobacco or nicotine products, and enforcement would vary among school districts. Similar legislation was proposed in 2017 but never came up for a vote.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY