Upcoming Changes to Law Regarding Student Use of Tobacco

In July 2018, the Massachusetts Legislature passed “An Act Protecting Youth from the Health Risks of Tobacco and Nicotine Addiction” to reduce youth access and use of tobacco and nicotine products, including vaporizers. The legislation impacts individuals, businesses, government agencies, as well as educational institutions. The impacts to educational institutions, as outlined below, go into effect on December 31, 2018.

The Act changes the language of G.L. c. 71, § 2A which prohibits student tobacco use (not possession or sale) on school grounds. Our public school clients are encouraged to carefully review the law’s new definition of “tobacco product,” which now includes:

A product containing, made or derived from tobacco or nicotine that is intended for human consumption, whether smoked, chewed, absorbed, dissolved, inhaled, snorted, sniffed or ingested by any other means including, but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, snuff, electronic cigarettes, electronic cigars, electronic pipes, electronic nicotine delivery systems or any other similar products that rely on vaporization or aerosolization; provided, however, that “tobacco product” shall also include any component, part or accessory of a tobacco product; and provided further, that “tobacco product” shall not include a product that has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the sale of or use as a tobacco cessation product and is marketed and sold exclusively for the approved purpose.

The new definition encompasses vaping and electronic tobacco products, and therefore prohibits student use of those products on school grounds. It also includes “any component, part or accessory of a tobacco product,” meaning that students may not use tobacco products, such as vaporizers, even if they do not actually contain tobacco, including if they are empty. Additionally, while many vaping product manufacturers hold themselves out as smoking cessation devices, there are no vaping products that are FDA approved smoking cessation devices that would be excluded from the definition.

The law continues to require school committees to maintain a policy regarding student tobacco violations. This change in the law presents an opportunity for school committees to review and revise their policies and student handbooks to include the prohibition of vaping products. Our team can assist in reviewing and revising these policies.

If you have any questions on the changes to this law or how the changes may impact you, please contact any of our attorneys.

This update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.