School districts should broaden bans on tobacco products to include electronic cigarettes. Young people shouldn’t smoke cigarettes or battery-operated nicotine-soaked cartridges.
MOUNTING public dialogue about the safety of electronic cigarettes appropriately spurs school districts to broaden bans on tobacco products to prohibit them.
The battery-operated devices the size of pens use nicotine-soaked replaceable cartridges to simulate smoking. Nicotine is delivered into the body with water vapor rather than smoke. Young people may find this safer than regular cigarettes. But e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive substance.
The product may be a gateway for teens to move onto other tobacco products including cigarettes. That’s the last thing needed as the popularity of smokeless nicotine products stalls progress on reducing smoking in high school.
Smoking is a critical battleground. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one-third of high-school smokers will die prematurely of tobacco-related disease.
The Washington State School Directors Association, which coordinates policy for public districts, revised its tobacco and nicotine substances policy last fall. The absence of tobacco in e-cigarettes put them outside the reach of current anti-tobacco bans.
Proponents laud e-cigarettes as a way to help wean smokers from tobacco cigarettes. But there is scant evidence, leading the federal Food and Drug Administration to warn manufacturers of e-cigarettes that such claims may violate federal drug laws.
Most adults favor restrictions on electronic cigarettes and more testing on their safety, a poll last year found. Bans on e-cigarette sales to minors, limiting ads and restricting indoor smoking of e-cigarettes are policy ideas sparking future efforts.
A smart beginning is a ban on e-cigarettes in public schools.
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