Opinion: Protecting Ga.’s youth from vaping dangers

Georgia’s State Capitol.
Georgia’s State Capitol.

Before the end of the 2020 Georgia legislative session, members of both parties of the Georgia House and Senate agreed to act to protect our youth against the dangers involved with vaping. Democrats and Republicans put aside their differences to vote by an overwhelming majority to regulate vaping products at the same level already in place for tobacco. As a mother and as the State Representative for District 97, I join you in looking forward to Gov. Brian Kemp signing SB 375 into law.

The American Lung Association warns that our youth’s generation is at risk for irreversible lung damage and disease as a result of e-cigarettes. They are called many different things—hookahs, Juuls, pens, mods, vapes, e-cigs. Whatever you call them, many different age groups view them as harmless. They are wrong.

The CDC recently found that 99% of the e-cigarettes sold in assessed venues in the United States contained nicotine, that some e-cigarette labels do not disclose they contain nicotine, and that some marketed as containing 0% nicotine have been found to contain nicotine. Our youth and adults are being misled.

Use of vape products is on the rise. According to a University of Michigan survey, the number of students who have "vaped nicotine in the past month" has doubled in the last two years, with nicotine being the most common substance used in e-cigarettes. The increase among 12th graders was 11% to 25%; 10th graders, 8% to 20%; and 8th graders, 4% to 9%.

What SB 375 does to protect our youth:

  • Raises the purchase age to 21 for cigarettes, tobacco-related products and vapes – to be in line with current federal guidelines, making it more difficult for youth to buy.
  • Requires licensing for those who sell vapor products and regulates sales, making sellers accountable to follow age restrictions.

  • Provides penalties to those who sell or give tobacco or vaping products to our youth, making youth access more difficult.
    • Makes it unlawful to use vaping products within a school safety zone and gives permission for seizure by law enforcement of any tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, and vapor products found in possession of those under age, making our schools safer for our children.
    • Provides for an excise tax in an amount comparable to the excise tax on cigarettes, to create parity between traditional tobacco and these new nicotine delivery systems.

    The Georgia General Assembly has joined 30 other states that regulate the sale of vape products. The legislation now lies with Gov. Kemp. We must protect our youth until they mature enough to make an informed decision and consider the dangers involved with vaping and the irreparable damage that can result from its use. Let Gov. Kemp know you support SB 375 and help your legislators make the state of Georgia safer for our youth. Call (404) 656-1776 or to send an email via https://gov.georgia.gov/contact-us/constituent-services or follow @GovKemp.

    State Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee.