LEXINGTON, Ky. — Members of the Fayette County Board of Education voted unanimously Dec. 5 to file suit against the manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices and products.
“Fayette County Public Schools is recognized as a leader on issues of health, safety and wellness, not only in the Commonwealth, but also across the nation,” said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk. “It is wholly appropriate that we continue to lead in this space.”
There has been a dramatic increase in the use of vaping products by children and teens in the United States.
Preliminary results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual National Youth Tobacco Survey – publicly released in September – showed that 27.5% of teenagers reported using an e-cigarette in the previous 30 days, up from 20.8% in 2018.
Since schools are a reflection of the communities they serve, FCPS has also seen a dramatic increase in the popularity and use of e-cigarettes among students.
Rather than a punitive approach to vaping, Fayette County works with families to educate teens about the dangers of vaping. The addition of full-time nurses in its high schools and the increase in mental health professionals were recommendations from the Fayette County Public Schools District Safety Advisory Council designed to curb all risk-taking behaviors in our students.
Just as it is illegal for minors to purchase or use e-cigarettes and other tobacco products in Kentucky, the use or possession of e-cigarettes is prohibited in the Fayette County student code of conduct, and is subject to the same disciplinary consequences as any other tobacco product.
The first approach includes confiscating the contraband and offering smoking cessation programs. An out of school suspension is for more serious offenses, such as trafficking or repeated infractions.
Although the district does not keep data separately for e-cigarettes, disciplinary incidents involving all tobacco rose by 310% from 2015 to 2018:
- 2015-16: 98 events with 11 resulting in out-of-school suspension.
- 2016-17: 121 events with 6 resulting in out-of-school suspension.
- 2017-18: 225 events with 32 resulting in out-of-school suspension.
- 2018-19 402 events with 50 resulting in out-of-school suspension.
- 2019-20: 116 events with 6 resulting in out-of-school suspension to date during the 2019-20 school year.
“The targeting of school children by these companies, both with their products and marketing campaigns, has led to an unprecedented rise in nicotine addiction among our young people,” said Caulk. “As a champion for children, I was compelled to ask our school board to take this extraordinary step of filing a lawsuit to stop the insidious marketing practices of these companies and demand resources to fight this epidemic.”