SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Amid increasing concern about vaping, a panel of Utah lawmakers on Wednesday approved a proposal to allow schools to destroy confiscated e-cigarette devices.
Schools are seizing an increasing number of the devices as more students are caught vaping on campus, But the law about what happens to the devices has been unclear — meaning schools sometimes have had to return them under rules for personal electronic devices, Republican Rep. Susan Pulsipher said.
“Some schools have boxes of these devices that they’re not sure what to do with,” she said.
The proposal is expected to be considered by the full Utah House of Representatives during the 2020 session before going to the state Senate.
The plan comes as Utah grapples with more than 100 cases of vaping-related illness, part of a national outbreak. Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data has shown that Utah’s rate of vaping-related lung illnesses is more than six times the national rate.
Nearly 10 percent of Utah students in sixth grade through high school, or about 30,000 kids, reported vaping over the last month, a higher number than those who reported using marijuana, alcohol and prescription drugs, according to school survey data.
“The vaping issue is a huge deal,” Pulsipher said.
Many teenagers think they are simply inhaling flavored water when they use e-cigarettes, not realizing the danger of nicotine addiction or lung illness, she said. Her proposal would also create an education program for e-cigarettes and other substances, and fund it with a stipend of $4,000, with most of that going toward a dedicated staffer for each school.