I am writing to express my concerns about a bill being considered by the state general assembly that, if passed, could have devastating effects on the health of teens and youth not only in the Upstate but statewide. House Bill 3681 (H3681) serves to protect the tobacco industry’s bottom line with no regard for what is in the best interest of our community. This bill would remove control from towns and cities to pass laws related to zoning for location and density of tobacco and vape shops and tobacco retail licensing.
Can you imagine living in a community with a vape shop on every corner with no policies or laws to prohibit that from happening? Furthermore, the passing of this bill would perpetuate practices that disproportionately target low-income communities and at-risk youth—further aggravating health disparities.
As an educator and mom of two children, I find it very alarming that the rate of youth tobacco use continues to accelerate. Prior to the rise of vaping, we made incredible progress when it comes to tobacco use, but much of that progress has since been diminished due to the accessibility of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to teens. According to the 2019 South Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey, 30% of high school students reported using any tobacco product. Bubble gum- and fruit-flavored vape juices continue to entice children to try these products. It’s no coincidence that Greenville County Schools has joined other districts in suing JUUL for the years-long disruption and harm e-cigarette use has caused within the school environment.
In summary, this bill will stop local action by prohibiting communities from passing laws that could help curb youth tobacco use and limit sales to minors. Together, we need to protect our youth from tobacco companies and vote ‘NO’ on H3681. Unfortunately, the bill passed the House last week and is now in the Senate. Ask your state senator to take action and vote ‘no’ on H3681 today!
Julie Smart, Ph.D.