Vaping Schools

FILE - In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

All across South Carolina, we are engaging in an important debate on the pros and cons of  e-cigarettes and other vaping products.

Many people believe e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to traditional smoking. Others are concerned that this product has directly led to an increase in teenage smoking. Both concerns are valid, and it is incumbent upon all of us to work together to find solutions that benefit all South Carolinians.

And clearly, some solutions are better than others.

Earlier this year, then Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced a new policy with the express purpose of addressing the increase in teen smoking. The FDA believes the recent increase is caused by the accessibility of e-cigarettes and other vaporized products that have “fruity flavors” targeted at young consumers.

Unfortunately, the new policy rolled out by the FDA is not only an obvious government overreach but one that won’t be effective at solving the problem. It should be noted that the new FDA policy was proposed by a group of unelected bureaucrats led by Commissioner Gottlieb.

These ineffective FDA policies will still allow the flavors preferred by teens to be sold, and only prevents these certain flavored e-cigarette from being purchased at convenience and grocery stores, which invariably will hurt small businesses around our community.

Gratefully, the U.S. Senate is taking action to help stop teen smoking that will be effective by focusing on online purchases, because over 32% of teens who bought e-cigarettes through a retail sale say they bought them online.

Last month, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced the bipartisan Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act that would require anyone who delivers e-cigarettes to check ID upon delivery.

We require an ID check for other delivered tobacco products and any tobacco product bought at an in-person retail location. Online sellers of e-cigarettes should follow the same requirements as traditional sellers, especially given their propensity for selling to minors. This legislation is one of many effective ways we could really address teen smoking.

Either way, unelected bureaucrats should not be involved in passing burdensome new guidelines on e-cigarettes, especially when this issue should be handled at the local level or by our elected officials in Congress. What we can agree on is the need for real solutions, especially given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 12% of high school students in the state use e-cigarettes, whereas only 2.8% of adults report using these products.

Citizens across South Carolina and the rest of our country are counting on our elected officials to support meaningful action to address teen smoking, not ineffective big government policies. We particularly are counting on influential policymakers like Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham. We are hopeful Sen. Graham, Sen. Tim Scott and our state’s congressional delegation will support the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act and keep the FDA’s unnecessary overreach in mind when it comes time to confirm a new commissioner.

Seema Shrivastava-Patel is president of the South Carolina Association of Convenience Stores. Larry Sharpe II is president of the South Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association.

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