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Committee unanimously approves anti-vaping bill

A bill to address vaping in our schools.

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Vaping among teens is a serious public health concern for many in Kentucky, but House Bill 142 is seeking to combat the trend.

Rep. Mark Hart (R-Falmouth) is the primary sponsor of the bill. The House Education Committee unanimously approved the legislation Tuesday.

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

Hart said the goal of HB 142 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.

Hart was joined by Master Sgt. Brian Melton – a Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps instructor at Pendleton County High School. Melton 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,” he said. “It’s something that we obviously need to take a firm stance on here in our great state of Kentucky.”

Committee chair Rep. James Tipton (R-Taylorsville) said he appreciates Hart’s work on HB 142.

“I hear many comments from teachers and people in the education world on how serious an issue this is,” Tipton said on vaping in schools.

Rep. Tina Bojanowski (D-Louisville) said she supports HB 142, but she is concerned that 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.

Rep. Jared Bauman (R-Louisville) asked what is being done to punish retailers who sell these products to children.

Hart said 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.

Rep. Steve Riley (R-Glasgow) said he’s talked to educators who have told him vaping is an epidemic. He said he thinks HB 142 is a “good first step” at tackling the problem.

“I think it’s something we owe our students,” Riley said.

HB 142 now heads to the full House for consideration.

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