MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill designed to reduce the use of vapes and e-cigarettes among young people.
The legislation, HB 273, provides for numerous regulations of the vaping and e-cigarette industry in Alabama.
Among them, it would prevent vape manufactures and retailers from using advertising techniques designed to appeal to young people, such as incorporating characters from comic books in ad campaigns. It would also prevent makers of vape pods and cartridges from claiming the taste of their product resembled “candies, cakes, or other sugary treats.”
HB 273 is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Drummond (D-Mobile). Two Republican members, Reps. Debbie Wood (R-Valley) and David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook), are among the cosponsors of the legislation. It passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 74-18 with two abstentions.
“My issue has always been to safeguard the welfare of young people,” Drummond said on the floor about her proposed law.
In a move signed into law by then-President Donald Trump in 2019, the federal government raised the age to 21 for purchasing all tobacco products, including vapes and e-cigarettes.
Drummond, a Democrat, remarked ruefully, “This is one thing the former president did right,” in a speech on the House floor.
Her legislation changes Alabama’s law to mirror the federally established age, which already had the prerogative in terms of enforcement by officers of the law.
The bill would require the Alabama Department of Revenue to build and maintain a directory of businesses that sell and manufacture vape cartridges, e-liquids and any alternative nicotine product in Alabama.
Furthermore, it would require the relevant businesses to pay for certification in the directory.
Each business entity that deals with vaping would have to pay the state an initial $2,000 certification fee, and each subsequent year would have to pay a $500 renewal for continued certification. Funds from the fees would go to implementing and maintaining the directory.
“There are some bad actors out there selling this stuff illegally right now,” noted Drummond about the need for a registry, further explaining that the registry makes the job of law enforcement easier.
Selling vape cartridges and e-cigarettes in vending machines would be banned under HB 273.
All locations selling vapes and any nicotine delivery system would be required to post a prominent sign near where customers check out that displays 21 as the legal age to buy nicotine products.
Manufacturers and retailers of nicotine products like vapes and e-cigarettes will also be required to post notices about the dangers of their usage, such as exposure to toxic metals.
“It has been a horrible issue for young people in our state,” said Drummond on Tuesday about the effect of vaping on Alabama youths.