TRENTON, NJ - Assemblymen Joe Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset) and John McKeon (D-Essex/Morris) had a bill they sponsored, to prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco in public schools approved by an assembly panel on Thursday. 

“Young people might see smokeless tobacco as a safe alternative to cigarettes without realizing the health risks associated with this product,” Danielsen said in a statement. “This bill would make it clear to students that using any form of tobacco comes with serious health consequences.”

The bill (A-493) would prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco in any area of any building of, or on the grounds of, any public school, according to a release. 

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“The use of smokeless tobacco increases the risk of certain cancers, such as esophageal cancer and various types of oral cancer,” McKeon said. “It should not be allowed in schools where impressionable young people may see it as a harmless substitute for cigarettes.”

Under the bill, each school district's board of education would need to ensure a sign is placed at every public entrance at school buildings stating the use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited, and that it is fine if compliance is not met. 

The fine would be not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense, according to a release. 

The bill would require the board of education of each school district to ensure a sign indicating that the use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited in the school is placed in every public entrance to a public school building. The sign would also indicate that violators are subject to a fine. The penalties for using smokeless tobacco in violation of this bill would be a fine of up to $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

Under the bill, in the event that the local board of health, or a similar entity, receives a written complaint, or has reason to suspect, that a public school is in violation of the bill’s provision, then the board of health would have to provide written notification to the board of education and order that appropriate action be taken. The board of education would be subject to a fine in the event that it fails to comply with the order.  

A student violates the bill’s provisions would not be subject to the fines established under the bill, but rather would be prohibited from participation in all extracurricular activities, including interscholastic sports, and the revocation of any student parking permit that the student may possess.

Under the bill, the board of education would have to adopt a policy that establishes the length of the suspension or revocation to be imposed for an initial or subsequent violation.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.

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