TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chair Joseph Vitale and Senator Bob Smith that would prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco in or on the grounds of public schools in New Jersey cleared the Senate Education Committee today.
“Current New Jersey law prohibits smoking in and on the grounds of K-12 schools, including school vehicles and at school activities that take place off school premises. But it doesn’t account for smokeless tobacco products which are unquestionably just as dangerous and addictive as traditional cigarettes,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex).”This commonsense legislation will close that gap and make our schools tobacco-free consistently through statute.”
Under the bill, S-293, the “use of smokeless tobacco” means the inhalation, chewing, or placement in the oral cavity of snuff, chewing tobacco, or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco, such as the relatively new product called snus. The board of education of every school district would be tasked with the placement of clear signs in every public entrance to a public school building in its district indicating that the use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited in the school.
“Smokeless tobacco products have no place in our schools. They can cause various types of cancer, heart disease, and other oral diseases, in addition to the harmful and highly addictive effects of nicotine,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “Ensuring New Jersey schools are tobacco-free is important to promoting a healthier lifestyle.”
Penalties for using smokeless tobacco in or on school grounds would be a fine of at least $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. If a student violates the provisions of the bill, he or she would not be subject to fines but rather would be prohibited by the district’s board of education from participation in all extracurricular activities, including interscholastic athletics, and subject to the revocation of any student parking permit. The board of education would have the latitude to establish the length of a suspension or revocation to be imposed for initial or subsequent violations.
According to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2 of every 100 middle school students and 6 of every 100 high school students reported current use of smokeless tobacco in 2015. Among high school students who have reported smokeless tobacco use, 10% were male students and 1.8% were female.
The CDC also reported that high school athletes are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than their peers who are non-athletes. Additionally, research shows that because young people who use smokeless tobacco can become addicted to nicotine, they may be more likely to also become cigarette smokers.
The bill, S-293, cleared the Senate Education Committee with a vote of 5-0. It next heads to the full Senate for consideration.