LETTER – bill banning smokeless tobacco from schools advances to Governor’s desk

The use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited on public school grounds by legislation approved today by the General Assembly. Assemblymen David C. Russo and Kevin J. Rooney sponsor the bill (S293/A493) establishing escalating fines for violation of the prohibition. It passed the Senate in May 2016 and moves to the Gov. Christie’s desk for consideration.

“Smokeless tobacco is not a safe substitute for cigarettes even though tobacco companies market these products as alternatives to smoking,” said Russo (R-Bergen). “In fact, using smokeless tobacco and cigarettes is becoming more common, especially in young people. Banning these products on school grounds is common sense.”

Smokeless tobacco is popular with professional and amateur baseball players, and ESPN reported in 2016 that as many as one-third of major league players use smokeless tobacco despite bans on the use at many ballparks. Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn died at age 54 from oral cancer related to his use of chewing tobacco. The NCAA has banned smokeless tobacco in college athletics.

“Experts say more than one in seven high school boys use smokeless tobacco, and scholastic athletes are twice as likely to dip or chew,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “We want to put an end to this dangerous activity. Smokeless tobacco is addictive. Once someone gets started, it is a tough habit to break, and users are up to 50 times more likely to get oral cancer due to the presence of almost 30 known carcinogens in smokeless tobacco.”