Students and Electronic Cigarettes: Implications of Governor Malloy’s Proposed Legislation

Recently, there has been a lot of debate in the media about electronic cigarettes or “e-cigarettes.” E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that are used to ingest nicotine by inhaling a vapor. (For more detail, the Connecticut Department of Public Health has issued a factsheet available here.) The discussion around e-cigarettes focuses on some very basic but important questions: Are e-cigarettes safe? Do they help people quit smoking or keep people addicted? Do e-cigarettes encourage smoking among teens?  These questions may soon become a pressing policy concern for school districts that have not already dealt with this topic.

In the current legislative session, Governor Malloy has proposed a bill that will prohibit any person from selling, giving or delivering “an electronic nicotine delivery system” (this includes the apparatus as well as the cartridges) to any minor under 18. The bill also prohibits minors from purchasing or possessing in a public place an electronic delivery system in any form. Violators would be subject to fines.  Since the bill’s definition of “public place” includes “any area that is used or held out for use by the public, whether owned or operated by public or private interests,” minors under the age of 18 would likely be prohibited from possessing e-cigarettes on school grounds. Accordingly, if this bill – or some version of it— becomes law, schools will have to address the public possession and use of e-cigarettes at school by minors, in a disciplinary context.

School boards need not wait for any new laws to be enacted in order to address the use or possession of e-cigarettes by students at school. Although minors may currently purchase and use electronic cigarettes, schools may establish reasonable rules regarding the use or possession of e-cigarettes on school grounds. State law prohibits smoking in schools (as well as state and municipal buildings, restaurants, health care institutions, etc.), with the word “smoking” defined by law as the “lighting or the carrying of a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe or similar device.” Connecticut General Statutes § 19a-342,  Whether e-cigarettes  constitute a “similar device” is  arguable.  Nevertheless, the general authority of boards of education to establish rules for the proper functioning of the school district enables them to revise their “no smoking” policies to include electronic devices within the general prohibition.

Another aspect of this debate for schools to consider is whether – and to what extent— e-cigarettes should be a part of the district’s curriculum. Connecticut General Statutes §10-19 requires all boards of education to teach students the “knowledge, skills and attitudes required to understand and avoid the effects of alcohol, of nicotine or tobacco and of drugs.”  This is expected to be part of the curriculum each year for students in all grades. Certainly, e-cigarettes fall within the category of “nicotine” and may therefore be included in the curriculum.

This blog/web site presents general information only. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice, and you should not consider or rely on it as such. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. This website is not an offer to represent you. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon any information at this website. Neither our presentation of such information nor your receipt of it creates nor will create an attorney-client relationship with any reader of this blog. Any links from another site to the blog are beyond the control of Pullman & Comley, LLC and do not convey their approval, support or any relationship to any site or organization. Any description of a result obtained for a client in the past is not intended to be, and is not, a guarantee or promise the firm can or will achieve a similar outcome.

Subscribe to Updates

About Our School Law Blog

Alerts, commentary, and insights from the attorneys of Pullman & Comley’s School Law practice on federal and Connecticut law as it pertains to educational institutions, whether those institutions be public school districts, private K-12 schools, or post-secondary colleges and universities.

Other Blogs by Pullman & Comley

Connecticut Health Law Blog

For What It May Be Worth

Working Together

Recent Posts


Jump to Page