VA passes toughest tobacco ban at schools

Virginia schools to be tobacco-free

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia is joining a growing list of states that have the toughest ban on tobacco and e-cigarette products in schools. It’s all because of a bill that Govenor Ralph Northam signed Wednesday.

The legislation in question, HB 2384 and SB 1295, require that school boards ban tobacco or other forms of nicotine products from all school property.

The legislation builds on an existing law to include a wider variety of nicotine products, such as vapes and e-cigarettes, and prevent use on school buses and school-sponsored events off campus.

According to a 2018 survey conducted by the CDC, 27 percent of high school students nationwide used a tobacco product within 30 days. This new legislation aims to curb that in the Commonwealth.

Since 2015, one of the biggest pushes for similar legislation came from those who it’s designed to benefit. It’s part of an initiative from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY).

Marketing Director for VFHY Danny Saggese said this is an initiative that was heavily driven by the high school youth in the foundation.

“In this case they worked on a campaign called 24/7 and it was to work with schools and school divisions to become tobacco and e-cigarette free 24 hours a day seven days a week,” said Saggese.

Saggese also works with the high school organization Y-Street to get school districts on board.

“In those three years Y-Street was able to double the number of school divisions in Virginia from 20 to 40 that have adopted the language,” said Saggese.

Now all schools across the state will be required to do the same.

Glen Allen resident Julian Williams has never picked up a cigarette because he’s seen up close the harmful effects that smoking can have on people. He says he agrees that more needs to be done to prevent youth nicotine addiction.

“I lost my father because he smoked tobacco and he died from it a few years ago,” said Williams. “My mom saw the effects of what it did to my father and she was like none of her kids are going to be smoking tobacco.”

“I think school is a place where kids should be healthy and learning healthy habits so smoking and vaping really doesn’t go along with that,” said Virginia educator Lindsey McGibbon.

Like Northam’s signature to raise the minimum age to buy e-cigarettes or tobacco, this law will take effect July 1.

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