BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The state has been trying to make it more difficult for minors to buy tobacco products since 2003. That’s when the Alabama Clean Indoor Air Act was passed. Some of these laws were already on the books in various forms, but lawmakers hope this will give the effort an extra boost.
Representative Barbara Drummond of Mobile is a sponsor of House Bill 41 that was signed this year by Governor Kay Ivey.
“It’s really for the health and welfare of our young people,” says Rep. Barbara Drummond.
She was shocked when she saw one of her Sunday school students with a Juul, which she thought was a flash drive.
“He is 12 years old and he has a vaping device nobody knows what the health risks are,” said Drummond.
Legislators are putting those concerns behind this new law. Among other things, it requires any shop selling vape and nicotine alternative products to get a tobacco license. It’s a long and involved process that comes with a $50 fee.
Last year, we talked with local leaders who supported the bill.
"We feel like if our children can get out of High School without vaping, they'll have a much greater chance of getting thru college without becoming addicted to nicotine,” says Vestavia Hills Council member Kimberly Cook.
With this new law, shops will no longer be able to advertise vaping or nicotine alternative products as healthy alternatives to smoking. Retailers also cannot advertise near schools or open a vape shop within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare, church, public library, playground, or park.
“Though we have seen tobacco go down, the use of tobacco go down, vaping has become somewhat of an epidemic especially as it relates to our young people,” says Drummond.
It’s already illegal for minors to have vaping or nicotine products, but this law adds a penalty of $300 and up to 30 days in jail if a retailer is caught selling to a minor - all to keep addiction out of reach.
“And kids as young as first graders were being given access to them, so it’s going to help,” says Drummond.
Alabama was one of three states that did not previously regulate vaping. The FDA is trying to gather data now on any kind of benefits to vaping as an alternative to smoking.