Maine could ban electronic cigarettes on school grounds under a Democrat's bill.
Lawmakers began considering Sen. Rebecca Millett's bill at a Tuesday public hearing.
No one testified in opposition to the bill, which comes as cigarette smoking rates have stopped falling among U.S. kids , and health officials say vaping may be to blame. Nationally, about 27 percent of high schoolers reported currently using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, in 2018.
Meanwhile, nearly one in five Maine high school youth reported any tobacco use in 2015, the last year such state-level data was available.
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Maine state law already prohibits tobacco use in the buildings or on the grounds of any elementary or secondary school. In 2015, the state prohibited the use of electronic cigarettes in the same public places where smoking is prohibited, such as restaurants, playgrounds and beaches.
An online summary says Millett's bill would explicitly prohibit possession of smoking devices such as electronic cigarettes, cigars, pipes and vape pens. Millet said many school boards in Maine have already incorporated a policy for e-cigarettes including flavored Juuls, which contain nicotine and can be hard for teachers to spot.
"With this bill, state statute will catch up and back up our local school administrations," Millet said in written testimony.
Her bill received support Tuesday from a school tobacco treatment specialist in Lewiston, along with an eighth-grade student who said young people aren't aware of the effects of using e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are generally considered better than cigarettes for adults who are already addicted to nicotine. But health officials have worried for years that electronic cigarettes could lead kids to switch to smoking traditional cigarettes, and there is virtually no research on the long-term effects of the chemicals in the vapor.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills called for public support Monday for her plan to spend $10 million from the Fund for Healthy Maine on tobacco and nicotine prevention measures. "It is critical to address the dramatic increase in vaping and other nicotine use among our young people," reads the text of Mills' address.