As Virginia students return to school, new tobacco ban in effect

Published: Sep. 4, 2019 at 12:27 PM EDT
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Virginia students have returned to tobacco-free campuses over recent weeks.

That's because

July 1 bans tobacco on school property for every district in every school-related setting, including activities off campus. The new policies also cover e-cigarette use.

According to a 2018 survey conducted by the

, 27 percent of high school students nationwide used a tobacco product within the last 30 days.

American teens have been using e-cigarettes an alarmingly increasing rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, largely based on misconceptions that they're safer and less addictive than cigarettes when they're not.

The law passed by the General Assembly earlier this year aims to curb that.

It officially took effect on July 1, at the same time as the

from 18 to 21.

Virginia is one of just 19 states with a full school tobacco ban.

Most districts already had such policies in effect, but many school systems had to craft them over the summer.

Staunton, for instance, has

, meaning any student caught vaping on school property will be suspended for 10 days on a first offense and required to participate in a drug awareness program.

If a student is caught violating the policy a second time, they will be referred to the Division Discipline Committee and could be expelled.

That's because they're not just violating school policies at that point – they're breaking the law.

Marge White is deputy director of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. She says if kids don't see tobacco and e-cigarette use, "that creates a norm that it is not acceptable."