NASHVILLE — A Tennessee bill that bans use of vaping in schools has been sent to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk after the House took final action on the measure earlier this week.
Sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, Senate Bill 26 treats the vaping of flavor-infused nicotine vapor the same as tobacco products which are already prohibited in schools and restaurants.
Howell and Gardenhire said local school system officials have been “scrambling” to revise discipline policies and drug prevention classes to warn students of the danger of inhaling the highly addictive vapor.
“This issue was brought to our attention a few months ago during a meeting with educators in Bradley County,” Gardenhire said in a news release. “Dr. Linda Cash expressed concern about the growing number of students, many in elementary school, who find ways of concealing their vaping habit at school.”
The lawmakers said educators told them the vapor use leads to nicotine addiction, discipline problems and general disruption.
“The goal of this legislation is to give educators in Tennessee the tools they need to address the vaping issue just as they do tobacco,” Howell said. “While vaping mimics smoking, it is not tobacco. So school administrators did not have the authority they needed to deal with it.”
By adding vaping to existing state code, school officials statewide “can now address this issue as they have done with tobacco,” Howell said.
Federal officials estimate the number of high school students using vaping products soared last year 75 percent to an estimated 3 million students and it’s overtaken tobacco in popularity.
Gardenhire and Howell said a school principal told them he believes it is the next health epidemic for kids. They also say research has shown many students will use at least one pod of vaping per day which is equal to inhaling the nicotine in a pack of cigarettes.
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