FRANKFORT -- The Kentucky House of Representatives should call for a vote on the tobacco-free schools bill, says its sponsor and a combination of health, education, business, youth advocacy and faith-based groups from across the state. The bill has been languishing since it passed unanimously out of a House committee on Feb. 7.

The letter to representatives urging a vote on House Bill 11 said the bill "would create an environment where smoking cigarettes and e-cigarettes is not the norm, reduce youth tobacco initiation, provide positive adult role modeling, and protect students, faculty, and visitors from the harms of secondhand smoke and aerosol both on campus and during school field trips."

Nearly nine in 10 Kentucky adults support tobacco-free schools, the letter added.

"Kentucky was making great headway in reducing youth tobacco use until the e-cigarette epidemic began making tobacco use socially acceptable again, especially among youth, including teens and adolescents who never considered using other types of tobacco products," the letter states. "Kentucky must move quickly to enact a statewide tobacco-free schools law, a strongly-supported, evidence-based measure to help address this epidemic."

The letter was signed by the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Baptist Health, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Kentucky Cancer Foundation, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Council of Churches, Kentucky Equal Justice Center, Kentucky Health Collaborative, Kentucky Health Departments Association, Kentucky Hospital Association, Kentucky Medical Association, Kentucky School Boards Association, and Kentucky Youth Advocates. The Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, which comprises more than 180 Kentucky organizations, also supports tobacco-free schools.

The House Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on HB11 Feb. 7, and passed it unanimously. The Committee also voted at that time to place the bill on the House consent calendar, under which the full membership could vote without further debate. On the following Monday, the bill was removed from the consent calendar so members could discuss it on the floor of the House and then vote. Instead, the bill has remained on the "orders of the day" calendar every session day since Feb. 12, and has yet to be called.

"We have an immediate crisis in youth tobacco use, but also an important tool to help address it," said Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, sponsor of HB11. "Despite the fact that a majority of my colleagues have told me they favor tobacco-free schools, as do the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow and 87 percent of Kentucky adults, the full House membership has not been permitted to vote on the bill. This is a short session and we cannot afford to wait any longer. We won't let this bill die quietly. Our constituents deserve to see a floor debate and vote on this important health legislation."

"We respectfully urge the Kentucky House of Representatives to call HB 11 for a vote on the House floor as soon as possible," the groups' letter states. "Please do not sacrifice the health of all of our school children to the convenience of fewer than a quarter of Kentucky adults who use tobacco."

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