BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The signs on some local vapes shop say 19 and up, but right now in Alabama it is legal to sell vaping devices to children. We’re one of only three states where that’s true.
“If you were to walk into the schools and talk to any parent, it’s an epidemic, it’s become an epidemic,” says Ashley Lyerly of the Alabama chapter of the American Lung Association. “We’ve seen a 78% increase in high school students using these products and we need to do everything in our power to regulate this industry as tobacco product and pass proven public health policies to take these out of the hands of kids.”
A bill that passed the house two weeks ago and could see Senate debate next week would ban stores and shops from selling vaping devices and limit the flavors stores can sell.
“We believe they’re taking a playbook from the tobacco industry, from the wild wild west as we like to say, and we do believe their products, the thousands of flavors in their products are intended to market to kids,” Lyerly says.
“A lot of the marketing is actually peer to peer among young people,” counters Alex Clark of Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association, or CASAA. “They’re communicating via Twitter, Instagram, social media. They’re copying and reposting ads intended for adults. Certainly manufacturers and retailers have a responsibility to make sure they’re using platforms like Facebook and twitter to put up the age gates and make sure the intended audience is seeing these ads.”
State law doesn’t treat vaping products or stores like tobacco shops, which means they don’t have to have the same permits or inspections, even though many vaping products have a similar amount of nicotine as cigarettes.
This new law would require these stores to get a permit and gives the ABC board the power to inspect stores who get a large percentage of their sales from vaping products, something CASAA supports.
“They have trained their employees properly, they have made sure people are showing IDs before they purchase,” Clark says. “So as long as the licensing regulations are not overbearing, and in reviewing the bill it doesn’t look like there are any exorbitant fees that are being requested or devastating penalty schedule, I think this is something they would be willing to comply with.”
But the American Lung Association says it wants the law to go farther and stop stores from marketing these products as a healthy alternative to smoking.
“They’re not a healthy alternative and we strongly believe that,” says Lyerly. “So we want them to be regulated just as tobacco products and we want them to make sure they haven’t been proven by the FDA to be a smoking cessation treatment.”