The Fresno Bee recently reported on a statewide effort to curb teen vaping in the form of Assembly Bill 1639, which was introduced earlier this year. This bipartisan bill would increase the penalty for adults who buy vaping products on behalf of a minor.
Unfortunately, despite the many positive provisions in this legislation, it also includes a counterproductive measure that makes the same mistake the new Food and Drug Administration e-cigarette policy does – limiting access to vaping devices to the retail locations that do not have a good record on enforcing the age restriction on these products.
While the FDA policy introduced by former Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is different because it carves out tobacco, vape and online shops from the new guidelines limiting the sale of flavored e-cigarette products, the result could be the same; more teens gaining access to vapes and other e-cigarettes.
This is because, according to new research on how minors acquire e-cigarette products, tobacco and vape stores are 100 times more likely to sell vape products to minors than convenience and grocery stores. If tobacco shops become the only places able to sell these products, partnered with their lack of effective ID checks, more teens could gain access to vapes.
Despite our elected officials’ best intentions, their efforts to curb teen smoking could be counterproductive and make the problem worse.
In addition, small businesses and corner stores who are effectively checking IDs and aren’t selling these products to minors should not be punished by arbitrary rules that won’t keep these products out of the hands of teens.
Our state and country should focus on common sense solutions that would actually address the recent rise in teen smoking.
A bipartisan group of Congressional Representatives recently introduced the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. Introduced by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), this legislation would require anyone who delivers e-cigarettes and other vape products to check ID’s before handing over the delivery. This bill would treat online retailers the same as in-person retail locations that are required by law to ID the buyer before selling the products.
Making it harder for minors to buy vaping products online should be a priority for elected officials because nearly a third of teens who reported buying their own vape products say they bought them online. Currently, there is no legal requirement for an ID check upon delivery of these products, and oftentimes a signature is not even required.
The next generation’s health depends on leaders in the California legislature as well as leaders in Congress, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, taking action, especially given the uncertain health implications of using vaping devices.
While California has recently struggled with how to address the vaping epidemic, including a failed effort to ban flavored tobacco products, it is still incumbent upon our elected officials to not give up on this fight and support legislation that will prevent teen smoking and is backed by scientific evidence and also won’t unfairly target businesses who are following the law.
Joseph Laughon is a conservative political commentator and former journalist.