WILKES-BARRE — State Rep. Gerald Mullery’s bill that would ban nicotine-based products and electronic cigarettes in Pennsylvania schools is moving forward after the state House passed it unanimously.
“Part of encouraging young people to live healthy lives is discouraging destructive habits from starting,” said Mullery, D-Newport Township, who drafted the legislation after conversations with school resource officers and teachers.
Cigarette smoking is already prohibited on school grounds, but Mullery’s H.B. 2268 also would ban e-cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco and other nicotine products.
In recent years, the use of alternative nicotine-based products has increased to the point where nearly three in five high school students use e-cigarettes, according to the U.S. surgeon general.
Some 90 percent of adult smokers picked up the habit as teenagers when they were most susceptible to addiction and in a critical period of growth and brain development, Mullery said.
If his bill becomes law, violations would be punishable as a summary offense with a fine not to exceed $50.
The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.
Every day in the United States, Mullery said about 2,300 children try their first cigarette and another 350 become regular daily smokers, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“Reducing the number of children and teens who smoke is vital, not only for their individual development, but also for public health,” Mullery said.
For every one percentage-point decline in the smoking rate, he said public, private and individual health care costs in the United States would drop an estimated $98 million annually, thanks to fewer smoking-related heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, annual spending on smoking-related birth complications would drop nearly $80 million per year.
Mullery said many of the nicotine products available today are colorful and attractive to young people. He said some of these products look, smell and taste like mints, gum and other candy.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.