Some teens now refer to the high school bathroom as the “Juul room.” A high school in West Virginia suspended 27 students for vaping, an almost 400% increase from the previous year. And recently, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee held a hearing titled “Examining Juul’s Role in the Youth Nicotine Epidemic.”
Thankfully, this national crisis is beginning to garner the attention of parents, school administrators and even elected officials in South Carolina.
Earlier this year, Columbia banned vaping in bars and restaurants within the city limits. The Horry County School District increased the penalties for students who are caught with any nicotine related devices, including an automatic five-day suspension for students found vaping at school.
While we are making progress, there is still much more work to do. In fact, one of South Carolina’s leading politicians can play a critical role in moving our country forward on this issue.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has before it the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. Introduced earlier this year by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, John Cornyn and Chris Van Hollen, this bill would tackle head-on the main retail source for teens who buy e-cigarette products: online purchases.
According to data released via the National Center for Biotechnology Information, teens were more likely to buy their vaping products online than at any other type of store. This is, in large part, due to the lack of sufficient age verification. And that is where the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act comes in.
This legislation would require a physical ID check upon delivery of any e-cigarette or vaping product. That means, before handing over a package, the delivery driver would be required to see the ID of whoever was taking ownership of the products. This change would treat online retailers like traditional convenience or grocery stores, where cashiers check and often scan the ID before ever handing over the product.
This simple change could have a huge impact across South Carolina and the country, but combating the teen vaping epidemic will certainly require an all hands-on-deck mentality.
We are counting on our elected officials to stand up for commonsense solutions. That includes U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, who is a co-sponsor of the House version of this bill, and state Rep. Beth Bernstein, who sponsored and passed similar state-level legislation.
Hopefully, Sen. Graham will join his South Carolina colleague in supporting this bill and call for a hearing to move it forward. The entire delegation should support this commonsense solution, and we are counting on Sen. Graham to make the right decision and take the lead on reversing the teen vaping epidemic.
Maggie Cash is executive director of the South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative.