Jeremy Wong smokes an e-cigarette at The Vaping Buddha on Jan. 23, 2018, in South San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The Alabama House Judiciary Committee Wednesday heard from supporters and opponents of a bill to establish additional regulations for selling and purchasing vaping and electronic cigarette products.
HB 319, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, includes provisions that advocates claim will protect children from developing a vaping habit. Critics said the bill will not affect how children view vaping and hurts businesses.
“This bill will simply now create a mechanism by which ABC (Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board) and ALEA (Alabama Law Enforcement Agency) can now go out and enforce the laws that we have put on the books, especially the registry,” Drummond said.
The bill expands the definition of “electronic nicotine delivery system” to include products that deliver substances other than tobacco. The bill prohibits minors from using forged identification cards and mandates they provide valid identification when asked by the retailer.
The bill would also ban the vending machine sale of tobacco products in places allowing people younger than 21. It also places a single $50 application fee and a yearly $150 permit fee to those who want to sell tobacco products, electronic or vaping products.
The ABC board will oversee the different permitting processes and determine if a retailer has violated provisions in the bill.
Money from the fees will go toward administration or enforcement costs associated with the bill.
There are also penalties for those who violate different elements of the bill when either selling or purchasing e-cigarettes or vaping items.
A retailer convicted of a first-time violation in the bill could pay a fine of up to $500 or go through a training program. A second violation during a four-year period may result in an administrative fine of up to $750, and any additional infraction will be a fine of up to $1,000.
Individuals up to the age of 21 would be fined anywhere from $50 to $200. Those who violate elements of the bill at least three times would have their drivers’ licenses suspended between 3-6 months.
There are also penalties for advertising that e-cigarettes or vaping products will help someone to quit smoking, is a healthier alternative to smoking, or may be purchased with different flavors. Retailers may also not advertise their products within 1,000 feet of a school or playground.
Retailers are also prohibited from advertising at a stadium, concert, or sporting event.
Those who violate this provision will be fined $300 for the first offense and $750 for each violation after that.
Retailers selling e-cigarettes or vaping products must first obtain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“There are a lot of bad actors out there,” Drummond said. “We are seeing a lot of stuff on the vape shelves when we go into convenience stores that should not be sold because they are not even on the registry. But we are not enforcing that law right now. It is time we stand up for our children.”
A manufacturer or distributor will be fined $1,000 per day when the product is sold in the market while not listed in the directory.
Retailers who sell a product not listed in the director will be fined $500 for the first offense within a four-year period. A second offense will be a $750 fine and a third will be $1,000.
Any fines collected for violating provisions of the bill will go to the General Fund, and the Tobacco Licensing and Compliance Fund in the State Treasury would be responsible for allocating and administering the dollars.
School officials spoke in favor of the bill, saying they wanted to be certain children were not exposed to smoking in any form.
“Vaping in our schools, and what I see in Blount County, is one of the major problems we are facing right now,” said Rodney Green, Blount County superintendent. “It has become an epidemic starting with about fourth grade.”
Gregory Conley, director of legislative and external affairs for the American Vapor Manufacturers Association, said the legislation did not consider input from vaping specialty stores.
“It would also, for some reason, give unexplainable deference to the actions of Joe Biden’s Food and Drug Administration,” said Gregory Conley, director of legislative and external affairs for the American Vapor Manufacturers Association.
The committee is set to take up the bill again this coming Wednesday.
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