Kentucky Bill to Regulate Vape Retailers, Align with FDA

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A new bill in the Kentucky General Assembly aims to establish a statewide database of vape retailers and bring state law in line with federal regulations on vaping products. House Bill 11, sponsored by Republican Rep. Rebecca Raymer of Morgantown, was approved with a committee substitute by the House Health Services Committee on March 7 and is now awaiting action by the full House.

Addressing Youth Vaping Concerns

Rep. Raymer began working on the bill after discovering that most vaping products confiscated in Kentucky schools are flavored and disposable, and many of these items are not supposed to be offered for sale under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules. She emphasized that the bill does not aim to remove all vaping products from store shelves, but rather seeks to ensure that only FDA-approved products are sold.

Dr. Britt Anderson, a pediatric emergency-medicine physician and vice-president of the Kentucky Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, shared her firsthand experience treating children addicted to nicotine and unable to quit vaping. She highlighted the potential health risks associated with vaping, including lung injury and altered brain development during a critical stage of life.

Youth Perspective and Retailer Database

Mallory Jones, a high school junior, testified that despite age restrictions, high schoolers can easily purchase vaping products. She stressed the importance of addressing the source of these products to reduce youth access and initiation of nicotine use.

Griffin Nemeth, coordinator of the #iCANendthetrend Youth Advisory Board at the University of Kentucky, noted that while HB 11 does not establish comprehensive tobacco retail licensure like in 40 other states, it does allow Kentucky to better understand the retail environment. However, he emphasized that a retailer database alone is not enough to make a significant difference and must be combined with compliance checks and stiff penalties for violations.

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Opposition from Vape Shop Owners

Several vape shop owners expressed concerns about the potential impact of HB 11 on their businesses. Troy LeBlanc, a retailer and manufacturer of vape products, argued that the bill would not effectively reduce youth vaping because most of the problematic sales occur in convenience stores. He suggested that the bill should instead limit sales to 21-and-over stores and impose substantial fines on violators.

Mike Reichert, owner of two vape shops in Northern Kentucky, stated that the bill, as currently written, would likely cause his stores to close. He explained that he entered the business to help people quit smoking by offering lower-nicotine products that can be gradually tapered down to zero nicotine.

Tommy Wilson, owner of two vape stores in Pulaski County, echoed the concerns of other vape shop owners and advocated for adult choice in finding less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes.

Legislators’ Considerations and Bill Details

Rep. Kim Moser, chair of the committee, encouraged opponents of HB 11 to continue discussions with the bill sponsor to explore potential amendments, emphasizing that the goal is not to put anyone out of business.

Rep. Josh Bray questioned vape shop owners about selling products that are not FDA-approved, prompting a discussion on the history of vaping products in the U.S., the challenges of obtaining FDA approval, and ongoing legal issues surrounding the regulation of these products.

HB 11, set to take effect on January 1, 2025, would limit the sale of products to those authorized by the FDA, punish retailers who sell unauthorized products to anyone under 21, require businesses selling vaping products to acknowledge this in their annual business filings, and establish a tobacco database and reporting system maintained by the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). The bill also sets fines for manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers who violate the law and allows police officers and ABC investigators to issue citations for violations.

As the bill progresses through the legislative process, lawmakers will continue to balance the need to protect public health, particularly that of youth, with the concerns raised by vape shop owners who view their products as a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes.

New source:
Matthew Ma