A new bill passed by the Maine Legislature prohibiting electronic smoking devices at schools will take effect Sept. 19 and was signed into law by Maine Gov. Janet Mills as an important step to protect students from the emerging threat of vaping device and tobacco use. FILE PHOTO

YORK COUNTY — As York County schools enter a new school year, school administrators have reported a significant increase in the number of students using electronic smoking devices, commonly referred to as vaping, over the course of past year, but help is on the way.

To help support schools in reducing this significant health hazard, the Maine Legislature passed a bill to prohibit electronic smoking devices at schools, which will take effect Sept. 19, 2019. LD 152 – “An Act to Prohibit the Possession and Use of Electronic Smoking Devices on School Grounds” was signed into law on April 30 by Maine Gov. Janet Mills as an important step to protect students from the emerging threat of tobacco and vaping devices.

The recently enacted biennial budget was signed by Mills on June 17 and also allocates $10 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine for smoking prevention and cessation.

Taking effect Sept. 19, the new law will prohibit use and possession of all tobacco products, including both combustible and electronic products, on school grounds, in school buildings, at school-sponsored events, and on school buses. Tobacco products defined in the law include cigarettes, cigars, pipes, electronic cigarettes, electronic cigars, electronic pipes, electronic hookahs, other vaping-type products, hookahs, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, snus, as well as filters, rolling papers, and any tobacco or nicotine liquids.

E-cigarettes entered the U.S. marketplace around 2007, and since 2014, they have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth. E-cigarettes typically contain nicotine as well as other chemicals known to damage health. The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction, harm the developing brain, and damage the respiratory system, including the lungs.

Last week alone, U.S. health officials in 25 different states announced investigation into the link between vaping and severe lung disease.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says it has received numerous requests for assistance regarding increased use of electronic smoking devices among students over the past two years. Maine CDC is compiling updated figures on this increase for release in the fall, but data from the 2017 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey show 15.3 percent of high school youth reported using e-cigarettes and 33.2 percent reported they had tried them.

This update to the law will help schools to foster a healthier and safer community for students, staff, and visitors,” said Nirav D. Shah, Maine CDC director. “Vaping and e-cigarettes pose serious health risks, particularly for kids, teens, and young adults.”

This new law is intended to support school personnel in their work to maintain and ensure tobacco-free school settings, Shah said. “Maine CDC and its partners have resources to support educators, parents, and communities as the new law takes effect.”

Shah said that the Maine Tobacco HelpLine can support students, parents, and school personnel who are assisting students interested in quitting.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]

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