NJ seeks chewing tobacco ban in schools
New Jersey lawmakers have long worked to limit where, when and which people can smoke, but another very harmful product has been overlooked.
"This is chewing tobacco primarily, snuff and tobacco, products of that nature," Rumana said.
Smokeless tobacco in school remains a very real problem that often leads to cigarette smoking and a lifelong addiction to nicotine, Rumana said, and that is why he decided to sponsor the legislation.
"I think we've had such a focus on cigarette smoking over the years and that's gotten all the attention and it's been quite effective, but this is one of those things that has really flown under the radar," he said.
In researching the bill, Rumana said he learned that 73 percent of public schools in New Jersey already have policies in place prohibiting the use of smokeless tobacco products. He said, though, that we could do better -- and he'd like to codify the ban with a law.
"We're not at 100 percent," Rumana said. "Obviously, this bill would make it mandatory that 100 percent of the schools ban smokeless tobacco use. I want to put the state's stamp on it to say, 'No more, we don't want it and it's not good for our children.'"
The full General Assembly was scheduled to vote on the legislation Thursday, but late in the afternoon, Rumana and other sponsors agreed to delay the vote until it can be determined how to appropriately penalize those who violate the ban.
As the bill is currently written, the penalties for using smokeless tobacco in violation of the measure would be a fine of not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. Rumana said it might not be fair or even reasonable to fine students in those amounts. He instead planned to look at the possibilities of requiring community service, suspending student-athletes for a certain amount of games, or other punishments.