Lawmakers consider new restrictions on e-cigarettes for teens

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -State lawmakers are set to vote on a new bill that would place further restrictions on teenage access to e-cigarettes.

The bill, H. 3420 , would direct school districts to implement a policy that would ban vaping in public schools.

It would also prohibit children under 18 years old from walking into vape shops without an adult with them.

If the bill were to pass, people buying e-cigarettes online would also have to verify their age.

Critics of e-cigarettes have complained for years that vaping devices contain dangerous ingredients, including nicotine.

Health professionals have also expressed concern over the staggering number of teenagers who use e-cigarettes.

“It’s becoming easier and easier for younger children to get their hands on these e-cigarettes,” Assistant Medical Director of Trident Emergency Department Kenneth Perry said. “And nicotine is still in those e-cigarettes, so the neurotransmitter is causing them a lot of problems.”

The nicotine in e-cigarettes can easily cause teenagers to develop an addiction, according to doctors.

The sponsor of the bill, Beth Bernstein, said several school districts in South Carolina already have a smoke-free campus policy.

Bernstein said she hopes the new bill would restrict teenage access to vaping products.

“Kids are easily able to purchase e-cigs and pods from other kids in the school setting,” SC Children’s Hospital Collaborative Executive Director Maggie Cash said. “The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that two-thirds of teens who were vaping did not know they were vaping a substance that included nicotine.”

Brad Rubright, the co-owner of Mutiny Vapors in Goose Creek, said most vape shops already self-regulate with a lot of the rules like the new bill proposes.

“Well, the new bill coming out, it’s pretty basic,” Rubright said. “There’s really nothing new than what we’ve already been doing, for the most part.”

Rubright also said he supports any law that attempts to make the vaping industry safer for kids, but he wants to make sure we don’t go too far with new laws.

“There’s a lot of places that overreach," Rubright said. "Certainly, we don’t want to see overreaching. But your basic stuff, 18 and over, we can certainly back that.”

Vape store owners said even with new laws, kids can still get access to e-cigarettes in other ways, but doctors say lawmakers should still consider restricting e-cig access for teens.

“If we curb the use of regular cigarettes, I think we should actually look at them as the same thing because nicotine itself is the addicting substance within them, and it’s still in those e-cigarettes,” Perry said.

This is one of the first bills of the legislative session moving to the House for a vote.

A second reading is scheduled for Thursday.

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