Anti-vaping legislation introduced in Alabama Legislature

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Alabama lawmakers are debating an amendment to existing law that could stop an increasingly popular alternative to cigarette smoking, vaping.

State Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) proposed amending Section 28-11-14 of the Code of Alabama 1975 making it illegal for anyone under age 21 to buy, use, possess, or transport any  vaping devices or materials, including e-liquids, CBD oil, or nicotine salt, or any other substance that a person might inhale using vaping devices. 

Figures told members of the Drug Education Council that she wants to keep minors healthy by eliminating underaged access to vaping devices.

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“Alabama has one of the highest incidences of vaping in the nation, which leads to higher healthcare costs, a loss of productivity, and a higher morbidity,” said Figures. 

The Senator told council members that nearly 20% of high school students in Alabama admit to vaping.

Lowndes County District Court Judge Adrian Johnson serves on the board of Children First, an advocacy group which supports the legislation.

“The vaping industry has purposefully targeted younger users through their utilization of flavored options, and advertising campaigns depicting vaping as a safe alternative to smoking,” Johnson said. “While the vaping industry must be better regulated to prevent such practices, there must also be accountability on the part of underaged users making the possession of a vaping device by a minor a crime,” he stated.

Johnson said it’s time to give schools the help they need to keep vaping devices off school grounds. 

 “While we have not had vaping specific cases in Lowndes County juvenile court, we know that many juveniles are utilizing the devices, often for illegal substances,” Johnson observed. “Juveniles on supervised probation are subject to random drug and alcohol screens, and there have been instances of positive screens as a result of the use of vaping devices,” he said.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) website reports that vaping or e- cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, and nicotine is highly addictive in e-cigarettes as well as regular cigarettes. 

The most recent ADPH publication on the topic states that 8,823 deaths reported in Alabama in 2018 are linked to smoking related causes. Research shows vaping nicotine can slow brain development in teens and can affect memory, concentration, learning, self-control and mood. The ADPH website points to vaping among youth increasing risks to develop other types of addictions.

Viginia Guy is executive director of the council, and she said vaping by underaged residents is the single biggest crisis needing attention.

“An alarming number of middle school students are beginning to vape, and we’re even seeing children as young as seven and eight years old vaping,”Guy said. “Children and teens are much more susceptible to nicotine addiction, and when you consider that a single vape cartridge contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes, you can see the danger.”

Guy compared Senator Figures’ bill to laws preventing underaged drinking.

“Let’s make Alabama a leader in the effort to outlaw underaged vaping,” Guy stated.