S.C. legislation would curb local regulation of nicotine products

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Smoke, vape, vapor, vaping generic(WILX)
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 5:24 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A bill advancing at the State House would ban South Carolina cities and counties from enacting their own local restrictions on sales of e-cigarettes and tobacco products.

That includes banning certain flavors or ingredients from being sold within a city or county.

The American Cancer Society is among its opponents – saying this proposal would threaten the health of South Carolina’s children.

“I think we need to provide some consistency to the folks that are selling it, or if these products are bad, then they need to be bad statewide,” said state Sen. Shane Martin, R-Spartanburg.

Local laws and ordinances put in place before 2021 would be grandfathered in under this bill.

And it wouldn’t prevent cities and counties from enacting no-smoking areas or zoning ordinances to ban smoke or vape sales in certain areas – like close to schools.

“It’s a legal product and they ban the sale of it in their locality, I worry that we give children an incentive: ‘Well, man, this must be the stuff to have because they banned it,’” Martin said.

Sen. Brad Hutto, the Democratic Senate minority leader, has a different view, calling the legislation “an infringement on home rule, versus you’ve got the idea that commerce in South Carolina ought to be uniform.”

Since 2019, federal law has barred selling tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – to anyone younger than 21 – though South Carolina law hasn’t been updated to reflect this.

“If it is a statewide health issue, which I think a good argument can be made that it is, it’s incumbent on us to act,” said Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.

Bills very similar to this one have been proposed in previous years at the State House – but none have become law.

Senators of both parties pledge to do more to prevent these products from getting into the hands of kids and teens – saying current law isn’t strong enough.

“There are other bills coming that will address how facilities that sell these products to young people should be punished, or should they have their right to sell nicotine products at all taken away from them, kind of like we do with beer,” Hutto said.

Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston, says she plans to block debate to this bill – until those other bills are also brought to the floor for debate – so they can be discussed at the same time.

“If we are going to be passing statewide legislation, shouldn’t we kind of run those two together?” Senn said. “I don’t like the cart getting before the horse.”