COLUMBIA — Ron Titus, owner of three Columbia-area vape shops, believes his adult customers should not face restrictions on their rights to use electronic alternatives to traditional cigarettes.
“I’m not a libertarian by any means, but I support the libertarian ideal that you do what you want,” Titus said. “I’m not hurting anybody. … Kids go and drink a bunch of Monster Energy drinks and get hopped up on caffeine. How is that different from vaping?”
But as their use grows, more rules on e-cigarettes could be coming to South Carolina.
The House last week passed a bill that would prevent local governments from adding any restrictions to the sale of tobacco or nicotine products, while a proposal to keep minors out of shops selling e-cigarettes was sent to the Senate earlier this month.
Another bill bans tobacco and e-cigarettes in schools, including at sporting events.
A typical e-cigarette, or “vape,” doesn’t have any tobacco at all, but along with the sweet or fruity pod flavor, it does contain the addictive nicotine and other chemicals.
E-cigarette usage has increased dramatically among teens over the past seven years, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control,/ At 13 percent, it surpassed regular tobacco product usage for the first time in 2017.
For people who testified at a recent hearing in opposition to a bill keeping local governments from regulating e-cigarettes, concern for South Carolina’s youth was a driving force.
“It’s my hope that the conversation will be, ‘How do we protect kids?’” said Ian Hamilton with the South Carolina Tobacco Free Collaborative. “How do we help people quit? How do we protect kids from starting in the first place? That’s where I hope the conversation goes.”
The dangers of e-cigarettes aren’t lost on users, many of whom turn to e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking altogether.
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