Vaping ban in Kentucky schools clears committee

Published 3:08 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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Legislation to ban vaping at Kentucky schools won unanimous approval at the House Education Committee on Tuesday.

House Bill 142 would ban all tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products in Kentucky public schools, and require all school districts to adopt disciplinary procedures for violators.

The main sponsor, Rep. Mark Hart, R-Falmouth, says the bill also has a data collection component. “It outlines a mechanism for reporting to the Kentucky Department of Education on a yearly basis so that we can track the progress and see how effective this is in the future.”

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He said the goal of the measure is to give school districts “some teeth” to enforce anti-vaping policies. The measure would require school districts to confiscate any tobacco, alternative nicotine or vapor products in a student’s possession.

On a student’s second or subsequent offense, the bill would require students be disciplined either through in-school or out-of-school suspension.

Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, said she supports HB 142, but expressed concern that a suspension won’t deter behavior. She asked Hart if he’s considered adding a treatment referral or other type of program option to the bill.

Hart said a floor amendment to the bill is forthcoming to address the question of alternative schools and other program options.

When asked what is being done to punish retailers who sell these products to children, Hart replied that another representative is working on a bill to address that issue. Penalties for retailers who sell vaping and other nicotine or tobacco products to minors was originally included in HB 142, but Hart said he felt it was best to keep his bill limited to the school issue.

“We didn’t want to create a bill that seemed like we were trying to punish kids when we’re trying to deter kids,” Hart added.

Hart was joined by Master Sgt. Brian Melton – a Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps instructor at Pendleton County High School, who testified on the severity of the vaping issue in public schools.

“It is speculated that more than 5.6 million youth will face premature death because of vaping, according to the CDC,” Melton testified. “It’s something that we obviously need to take a firm stance on here in our great state of Kentucky.”

The bill now heads to the House floor.