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Rep. Chris Stewart joins effort to ban e-cigarettes in nation's schools

FILE - Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, is interviewed during the Utah Republican election night party at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.
FILE - Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, is interviewed during the Utah Republican election night party at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Another Utah member of Congress has joined the effort to ban e-cigarettes in the nation's schools.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., introduced a bill Friday that would amend the 2001 Pro-Children Act to include e-cigarettes in the smoking ban for educational and child care facilities.

"E-cigarettes have made their way into schools across the country and have quickly become an epidemic among youth," Stewart said. "E-cigarettes need to be taken as seriously as combustible cigarettes and this bill is a great start."

Engel said too many children are being exposed to e-cigarettes in schools, threatening the progress made in reducing tobacco use.

"This bill provides our teachers and school administrators with federal support to tackle this public health crisis and prevent another generation from becoming addicted to nicotine," he said.

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, attends the HELP Hearing: Implementing the 21st Century Cures Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2019.
FILE - Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, attends the HELP Hearing: Implementing the 21st Century Cures Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2019.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer, For the Deseret News

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced the same legislation in the Senate last month.

E-cigarette use among high schoolers has increased nearly 78 percent and nearly 48 percent among middle schoolers from 2017 to 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is estimated that there are about 3.6 million current users of e-cigarettes in America's middle and high schools, according to the CDC, including an increase of 1.5 million in one year.

Utah tobacco laws already include regulations on marketing and selling to minors, including restrictions on flavored cartridges.

Earlier this year, Utah lawmakers voted to increase the age that minors can buy cigarettes and nicotine products, including e-cigarettes and the cartridges that go with them, to 21. The age restriction will be phased into law over then next two years.