The law banning vapor products on Oklahoma school grounds rightly recognizes the health risks of students vaping as equal to those of tobacco use.
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 33, written by Sen. J.J. Dossett of Owasso, to prohibit vaping products on public school campuses, in school vehicles and at school-sanctioned events and activities. It goes into effect July 1.
No data back the claims by manufacturers that e-cigarettes are effective at tobacco cessation, and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the products as a way to quit smoking.
E-cigarettes hit the market in 2007 and quickly appealed to youth by adding sweet flavors and packaging to mimic juice boxes and candy. Several tobacco companies bought into significant ownership of vape manufacturers.
Students left cigarettes behind but started vaping.
Last year, the FDA went after the biggest companies to cease youth marketing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 1 out of every 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school kids vape regularly. Emerging research shows health risks in the toxins used for flavoring and lack of control over nicotine levels, some with higher amounts than regular cigarettes.
Vaping is a gateway to later tobacco use. About 90% of adult smokers got addicted as teenagers. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. and Oklahoma.
The law will keep vaping products away from schools, whether used by students or adults on campus in attendance for events or meetings. This is in line with the tobacco-free campus laws.
This is an important first step but more can be done: Tax e-cigarettes at the same level as tobacco.
The state sales tax applies to vaping products, like food or candy. The much higher state tobacco tax should be used instead. It has been effective in reducing smoking and preventing future smokers.
The Legislature and Stitt did the smart thing in banning vapor products at schools; now, it’s time to take the next step.