Prevention and Discipline for Student Vaping


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In the past few years, the use of e-cigarettes — also known as vaping — has increased dramatically among school-age youth. This issue is compounded by arising health concerns around vaping, including lung injury and even death. In response, states and districts are seeking to regulate or ban the use of vaping products, which take many forms such as pens or USB sticks — and produce invisible or easily concealed vapor.

Yesterday, on Ed Note, we focused on state policy approaches to reducing vaping in schools. Today, we focus on the disciplinary actions and preventative measures states and districts are taking to discourage vaping.

Disciplinary Actions

This year, states adopted disciplinary policies to deter the use of vaping products by school-aged youth. Florida adopted H.B. 7027, which prohibits minors from vaping within 1,000 feet of school property between 6 a.m. and midnight. Violators are subject to a civil infraction citation with a maximum penalty of $25, 50 hours of community service or completion of a school-approved anti-vaping program as an alternative to suspension.

Nebraska adopted L.B. 397, adding electronic or alternative nicotine delivery systems to the list of tobacco products subject to a Class V misdemeanor, including a criminal record and potential fine, for people under the age of 19.

Virginia adopted companion bills, S.B. 1295 and H.B. 2384, requiring school boards to develop and implement disciplinary policies, including criteria for suspension and expulsion, that address the use and distribution of tobacco or vaping products on school property or at a school sponsored activity.

Preventative Measures

Some schools and districts are establishing requirements for educating students and providing services to curb the use of vaping products. For example, Kentucky adopted H.B. 11, which requires each local board of education to adopt policies prohibiting vaping products on school property. In response, Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville announced a campaign with resources to educate students on the dangers of vaping. As part of the campaign, the district requires the following three skills-based health lessons at all secondary schools:

  • Lesson 1: The harmful effects of vaping products
  • Lesson 2: How companies in the vaping product industry target young people
  • Lesson 3: Refusal options based on real-life student situations

Similar to Kentucky, California passed legislation in 2016 requiring school districts that receive state funding to prohibit nicotine use, including vaping products, on school property. In response, the Conejo Valley Unified School District in Thousand Oaks added suspensions for the use or possession of vaping products to the list of offenses that could qualify a student for the district’s BreakThrough Student Assistance Program, which is in compliance with the state’s comprehensive Student Assistance Program. The program aims to provide middle school and high school students with individualized services to address their needs and help them in their academic and personal success.

The continued use of vaping products by school-age youth forces states and districts to consider regulatory practices and how to discipline or help violators. The addictive qualities of nicotine and other drugs used in vaping products makes things more complicated.

For more on legislation related to e-cigarettes and student health, see our State Education Policy Tracking database, which we update regularly. And if you missed it, see yesterday’s blog post that provides a broader overview of 2019 legislation that aims to reduce vaping in schools.

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Damion Pechota is a former senior policy analyst at Education Commission of the States.

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