House Bill 3681 passes, as advocates worry the vaping epidemic in youth will continue to increase

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On Wednesday, South Carolina lawmakers passed a bill that would prevent South Carolina cities and counties from passing ordinances that many believe would protect children from tobacco and vaping.

Beth Johnson, the South Carolina Government Relations Director with the American Cancer Society, met virtually Wednesday morning with the City of Charleston’s Health and Wellness committee to explain how this bill would impact the city in their fight against youth tobacco usage.

Johnson explained the bill targets each city specifically to say “to you the City of Charleston, you cannot make any rules or laws pertaining to flavored products or who sells tobacco products in your city. Only the state has that authority.”

She called both vaping and flavored tobacco in youth an epidemic, and House Bill 3681 makes their mission to protect children even more difficult. Johnson later called it, “a bad bill.” 

While house members pointed out the revenue the state received from the excise, or Tobacco Tax, the Truth Initiative shows $247.1 million is estimated in revenue from tobacco settlement payments and taxes in the fiscal year 2020.

However, Johnson pointed out that a number not mentioned was the one that indicated the price of smoking-caused health care. Johnson said that specific health care has cost the state $1.90 billion per year.

Even more, South Carolina has a higher than the national average of high school students who are using e-cigarettes, and about 85% of those students say that they use flavored products.  

With the bill passing in the House of Representatives, Johnson is not the only individual advocating against the Senate’s passage.

The American Lung Association said they also do not wish to see the bill further anymore, “The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of good lung health. We can’t lose another generation to the death and disease of tobacco use. The American Lung Association calls on state senators to put South Carolina’s children before tobacco industry profits, and vote ‘no’ on House Bill 3681.” 

Johnson said with the inability to enforce the “Tobacco 21 law” that was passed at a federal level, the American Cancer Society has relied on South Carolina communities to prevent the youth under 18 from purchasing flavors and control youth tobacco. 

Those in favor of the legislation said that consistency is key in tobacco regulations and having a patchwork of laws puts the state in danger financially.

The next step is for the bill to be taken to the Senate. If and when a vote comes, you can count on us to update you both on-air and online.

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