A Senate committee passed a bill aimed at reducing the availability of vaping products to children and teenagers on Wednesday. However, concerns over its impact on small retailers and its disputed effectiveness have called into question whether it will receive a final vote in the remaining days of the legislative session. The legislation would make it illegal for retailers to sell any vaping product to anyone under the age of 21.
Health Advocates Oppose the Bill
The bill has faced opposition from around two dozen health and children’s advocacy groups who have urged lawmakers to focus on proven tobacco control policies. Comprehensive tobacco retail licensure, adequately funding tobacco prevention and control programs, and increasing tobacco product prices to discourage youth use of the products are some of the examples the groups put forward. The opposition has affected the bill’s progress, with several senators indicating that details needed to be resolved before a final vote can be cast.
Vape Store Owners Speak Out
Several representatives of vape stores spoke against the bill, arguing that it limits their businesses and products unnecessarily. Joe Ferrell, representing vape retailers, argued that such establishments are already open only to those who are over 21 years old. Putting unnecessary restrictions on stores and their products would put 1,800 vape shops out of business and give big tobacco a monopoly, he added.
Educators Are in Favor of the Bill
At the same meeting, educators begged lawmakers to pass the bill in order to stop children from accessing vaping products. The representatives explained how they had already recorded hundreds, if not thousands, of instances of students possessing vaping products, even at elementary school level, amid growing concerns of a surge raise of nicotine addiction amongst children. Under the proposed legislation, those caught with vaping products under the age of 21 are liable to fines starting at $50 for first-time offenses going up to $200 or community service hours as a corrective option
The Bill Remains Controversial
The law, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Drummond, R-Mobile, has raised significant controversy and has far-reaching consequences. Alabama is not the only state in the US to grapple with the issue and a nationwide struggle regarding vaping product use showing no signs of slowing.