SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – E-cigarette use among teens has become a troubling trend according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Senator Mitt Romney says it’s time to treat it for what it is, an epidemic, and he’s sponsoring a bill to do just that.
Vaping is on the rise at schools all across the country.
The CDC says there was a 48% increase in e-cigarette use at middle schools and a 78% increase at high schools from 2017-2018.
“This is a big challenge for our schools. It’s something that we have paid a lot of attention to in the recent past,” said Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney.
Haney says some students even seem to think it’s okay to vape in the restrooms between classes.
He says many don’t even realize what they are getting themselves into.
“Anecdotally, we also hear that students aren’t aware that there is nicotine in the juice to their e-cigarettes. They simply don’t know,” Haney said.
The problem has caught the attention of Senator Romney.
“We just shouldn’t have vaping in schools. We don’t want to have tobacco in schools. Let’s let kids go through the education experience without getting dragged in by people who are pushing tobacco products on our kids at such a young age,” said Romney, (R) Utah.
To do that, the senator is sponsoring the Smoke-Free Schools Act of 2019.
Among other things, it defines e-cigarette use at schools as a public health epidemic and updates current law to specifically include electronic tobacco products in smoking bans for schools that receive federal funding.
“This is something which should be illegal across the country, again, as a protection for our young people and a protection for the health of our entire society,” Romney said.
Haney says the district supports the bill. In the meantime, he says education is key.
“Education right now in talking to students about the uptick in the number of students who are vaping, and the ill health effects that come along with that, that’s what we’re focused on right now,” said Haney.
Romney is teaming up with Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico on the bill.
It has been introduced and is awaiting a committee hearing.