§ 23-20.9-2 Legislative findings.
(a) It has been determined that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in this country. More people die from cigarette smoking and related illnesses each year than die from alcohol, traffic accidents, cocaine and heroin, AIDS, murder, and suicide combined. Second hand tobacco smoke alone causes up to fifty-three thousand (53,000) deaths per year in non-smokers. As reported by the center for disease control, second hand smoke is the third leading cause of death in the United States today. Ninety percent (90%) of the people who smoke start by age nineteen (19), the average age being thirteen (13). Children exposed to tobacco smoke are at nearly twice the risk of being in poor or fair health as compared to children who are never exposed to tobacco smoke. Children exposed to tobacco smoke have an increased frequency of respiratory infections and decreased lung function. In Rhode Island, where the legal age to purchase tobacco products is eighteen (18), in 1988 the department of health reported the following smoking rates for Rhode Island students:
(b) The tobacco industry sells one billion packs of cigarettes to underage children every year. Nationwide, three thousand (3,000) underage children take up smoking every day with more than half addicted by age fourteen (14). Schools and the state of Rhode Island have a moral responsibility to protect the health and welfare of children from the health hazards of tobacco.
(P.L. 1992, ch. 230, § 1.)