Targeting vaping ‘epidemic,’ NC lawmakers could remove hundreds of products from stores

Proposed new vaping rules could block hundreds of e-cigarette products from being sold in North Carolina.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee backed legislation on Wednesday to create a vaping registry that allows only federally authorized vaping products to be sold in North Carolina. Most vaping products on the shelves have not been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Sen. Michael Lee, a New Hanover County Republican, said the legislation is needed to protect people from the dangers of vaping use.

“This amendment is not perfect,” Lee told the committee. “There are other things we can do. I wish that we had worked on something even sooner than where we are today.”

Vaping industry representatives warned lawmakers that the bill will cost people jobs and money.

“You’re affecting hundreds of businesses that are owned and operated out of the state of North Carolina, and you’re affecting thousands of jobs,” said Joe Palmer of Lincolnton, who told the committee he was speaking on behalf of 40 families affected by the vaping changes.

The vaping language was tacked on to an existing bill that allows the Wake County school system’s two leadership academies to retain their state designation as early college high schools. Wake is ending its relationship with St. Augustine’s University to find a new college partner for the schools.

The bill goes to the Senate Rules Committee.

Vaping epidemic

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that use a liquid laced with nicotine, producing a vapor which users inhale. Their popularity caused the FDA to declare an “epidemic” of underage vaping among young people.

From 2018 to 2019, use of e-cigarettes rose 78% among high schoolers and 48% among middle schoolers, according to the N.C. Youth Tobacco Survey.

It’s become such an issue that a number of schools have installed vape detectors.

The men’s bathroom at Morehead High School, pictured on April 15, 2024, is one of several student restrooms at the Eden school equipped with vape detectors.
The men’s bathroom at Morehead High School, pictured on April 15, 2024, is one of several student restrooms at the Eden school equipped with vape detectors.

The state and multiple North Carolina school districts have successfully joined federal class-action lawsuits against e-cigarette makers, like Juul.

North Carolina won $47.8 million in a settlement with Juul. North Carolina was the first state to challenge and force change in how Juul targets teens with its marketing.

Bill creates vaping directory

Under the legislation, manufacturers would need to be certified by the state Department of Revenue to have products put on a directory of eligible vaping products.

Certification requirements would include having submitted an accepted application for vape products to the FDA by Sept. 9, 2020.

“Every retailer has the opportunity to go on the directory to see if what they’re selling has been approved, to see if what they’re selling has gone through the FDA process or whether it’s a black market type of product, which I suspect this would be considered,” Lee said. “Those retailers will have a period after this directory is out to sell out their inventory or return it to the manufacturer.”

Retailers who sell prohibited products, as well as manufacturers, would face “hefty penalties,” Lee said, “to protect the kids and to protect others.”

Vaping industry warns of lost jobs, revenue

Vaping industry representatives unsuccessfully lobbied Wednesday for an amendment to allow for products whose applications were submitted to the FDA in 2022.

Kevin Wilkinson, a lobbyist for the Vaping Technology Association, said the bill would cause 2,095 vaping jobs to disappear. He said it would lead to a loss of $447.4 million to the state economy and a loss of $105 million in state and local tax revenue.

Ches McDowell told the committee he was representing 1,700 Asian-American owned convenience stories in North Carolina. McDowell said the bill would take away a profitable item for families trying to build on the American dream.

“What this bill does will take hundreds of products off the shelf that these folks make money on and rely on to feed their families,” McDowell said. “We ask you to take a harder look at this and what this does to our community.”

Under the Dome

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