State Board of Education clamps down on e-cigs, vaping

The State Board of Education on Tuesday approved a policy aimed at prohibiting at school the use of e-cigarettes by students, school staff and visitors.

The policy forwarded to Kansas school districts expands prohibitions on tobacco products to e-cigs, vape pens and any other electronic products that can deliver nicotine.

Schools across the nation and Kansas have reported an explosive increase in vaping among students from elementary to high school. Deaths and serious health problems have been associated with vaping as has an increase in addiction problems.

Nationwide, lung injuries associated with vaping have resulted in 48 deaths in 25 states and 2,291 hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than half of those hospitalized have been under 24-years-old.

Between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of high school students in Kansas who have used an electronic vapor product has increased from 34.8 percent to 48.6 percent while daily users have increased nearly four-fold from 1.4 percent to 5.2 percent, according to the Kansas Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The 2017 survey was the first one looking at vaping.

In June, the State Board approved forming a task force, which included representation of KASB, to study the issue and present recommendations.

Under the policy, students and school staff are prohibited from using, possessing or promoting any tobacco product (including electronic nicotine products) in any district facility; in school vehicles; at school-sponsored activities, programs, or events; and on school owned or operated property. School visitors would be prohibited from using such products in the same locations.

Violations of the policy could result in disciplinary actions outlined by the local school district. Disciplinary actions could include notification of parent or guardian, participation in a tobacco education programs, referral to a cessation program or community service.

“This is quite inclusive and definitive,” Board Chair Kathy Busch said of the policy. Busch added, “We still have a lot of work to do.” The board approved the new policy 9-0.

The vaping task force will continue work to recommend to schools districts best policies on disciplinary and cessation issues.

Health officials also are preparing legislation for the 2020 session that would increase the minimum age in Kansas to purchase tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, from 18 to 21.

In Kansas, local governments can enact their own youth access regulations for tobacco, according to Tobacco 21, a national campaign. The group said 22 local governments in Kansas have raised the age, covering 27 percent of the state’s population.

But a state law would cover the entire state. Tobacco 21 says 16 states have approved raising the smoking age to 21.

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