COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – A bill that would prevent communities from passing local ordinances aimed at protecting children from tobacco or vaping products was presented Wednesday in a State House Subcommittee meeting.
It passed the subcommittee with a vote of 4-1.
Bill H.3681, the Tobacco Prevention Act, would ban municipalities from creating any tobacco legislation.
Several speakers from both sides of the issue shared their thoughts on statewide tobacco regulation.
“These local governments, they need that right to control what’s happening in their cities, in their schools,” said Beth Johnson, of the American Cancer Society (ACS).
The ACS Cancer Action Network has repeatedly shown opposition to the bill. After the bill passed the House subcommittee this morning, the organization released the following statement.
“The House Judiciary General Laws Subcommittee sent a clear message to South Carolina families today that tobacco industry profits come before the health of our children. We’re extremely disappointed by today’s vote to advance state government interference into community laws.”
“Lawmakers claim it’s because they don’t want a ‘patchwork’ of laws, but the truth is that dynamic already exists in South Carolina, businesses and our local enforcement agencies are accustomed to it and perform well under it.”
“This bill is nothing more than a gift to the industry responsible for today’s youth tobacco epidemic and will allow them to remain unregulated. During a time when South Carolinians are suffering from COVID-19 and related respiratory issues, the tobacco industry and its allies continue to addict children to their deadly products.”ACS Cancer Action Network
A proponent of the bill, Fred Allen, a representative of Reynolds American Tobacco, says having a ‘patchwork of laws’ is not in the states best interest and that consistency with tobacco regulation is key. He also touched on the financial harm that could come to the state if the bill is not passed.
“We used two cities, Charleston and Columbia, and that chart shows the impact to state revenue in just those two jurisdictions would be over $12 million.”
One topic both sides spoke on is the growing umber of teens using tobacco and flavored vaping products. A volunteer with the American Cancer Society, Whitnei Jeffcoat, says the problem is growing because of teens accessibility to these products.
“Blueberry, lemonade all these things that they are addicted to and I’m trying to encourage them to stop but they can get it. All these products at all these locations,” said Jeffcoat.
Meanwhile, Allen says his company is “mindful of problems with youth access.”
Now that the bill has passed the House subcommittee, it will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee for a full floor vote.
Supporters say tobacco laws should be streamlined for tobacco, e-cigarette manufactures, store owners, and customers while opponents say it’s an invitation for big government.