E-cigarette bill passes in Ohio


The Ohio General Assembly has passed, and Governor John Kasich has signed, a bill which brings so-called “e-cigarettes” under the same general regulatory and child-protection framework applicable to conventional tobacco products. Under these regulatory provisions, minors will be prohibited from consuming, possessing, or purchasing “alternative nicotine products” such as electronic cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered electronic devices which contain nicotine in a liquid solution, often with other chemicals and flavorings. A small heating element turns the liquid into a vapor, which is then inhaled by the user. Electronic cigarettes are often manufactured to resemble ordinary cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, but have also been made to resemble other objects such as fountain pens or USB memory sticks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that e-cigarette use by American junior high and high school students more than doubled from calendar year 2011 to calendar year 2012.

Boards of education may wish to revisit their student discipline policies and handbooks to determine whether possession of e-cigarettes is a type of conduct for which a student may be suspended or expelled. Because these are relatively novel devices, and the devices themselves contain no tobacco, many policies may need to be amended in order to withstand legal challenge. Boards of education are reminded that changes to any student discipline policy must be “posted in a central location” in each school building and “made available to pupils upon request.” See ORC 3313.661(A). However, nothing in Ohio law requires the actual reprinting of student handbooks in such circumstances.

The enacted bill, Substitute House Bill 144, may be viewed in its entirety by following this link. The official effective date for this legislation has not yet been established, but would appear to be on or about August 2, 2014.

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