Montgomery Council Aims to Curb Youth Vaping Epidemic

In response to multiple deaths and hundreds of vaping-related illnesses across the country, coupled with the sharp rise in youth vaping, the Montgomery County Council will consider two proposals aimed at keeping vape shops and vape products away from local schools.

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Montgomery County Council Members Gabe Albornoz, and Craig Rice introduced Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 19-06, which would prohibit vape shops that sell e-cigarettes and similar products from opening within a half-mile of a public or private middle or high school. It would also require vape shops currently operating in those locations to close within 24 months.

Albornoz and Rice also introduced Bill 29-19, Health and Sanitation – Electronic Cigarettes – Distribution. This legislation would prohibit manufacturers of e-cigarettes from distributing them to retail stores within a half-mile of a middle or high school.

According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), e-cigarette use among high school students rose by 78 percent, and e-cigarette use among middle school students rose by 48 percent.

“Vaping has reached epidemic proportions among our youth. More than 3.6 million middle and high schoolers are currently using e-cigarettes,” said Council Member Albornoz.

“Unfortunately, nationwide we’re seeing a trend among our youth of increasing use of e-cigarette and vaping devices,” said Council Member Rice. “We have the responsibility to restrict their access to these devices beyond the typical measures, to prevent their addiction and the actualization of adverse health effects. I am confident our legislative action on the local level will help prevent and alleviate this growing epidemic. I look forward to more jurisdictions joining us in our fight to help ensure a healthy future for our youth.”

According to a press release:

“Every day, we hear alarming news about vaping. Just last week, we learned that U.S. health officials identified approximately 450 possible cases of serious breathing illnesses in youth linked to vaping, including five in Maryland. In our own County, three students were hospitalized after vaping on school grounds. There is simply no reason to make these products available in stores frequented by underaged students,” Albornoz said.

“Vaping caries significant health risks, particularly for adolescents and young adults,” said Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles. “Early exposure to nicotine can impact the development of key areas in the brain that are important for executive, higher-level functioning. Additionally, early exposure can increase a child’s level of dependence, withdrawal and initiation to other substances. There are also significant unknown risks given the recent cases of vaping-related respiratory illnesses.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers that illegally sold e-cigarettes and other vaping products to minors, in what it calls “the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA’s history.” It has called e-cigarette use among teens an “epidemic.”

Similarly, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), e-cigarette use among high school students rose by 78 percent and e-cigarette use among middle school students rose by 48 percent. Many of the vaping devices contain significantly higher levels of addictive nicotine than traditional cigarettes, and in some cases, include additional harmful substances and drug paraphernalia.

The Food and Drug Administration announced plans to finalize a policy in the coming weeks that will remove many nontobacco flavored e-cigarettes from the market.

Michigan last week banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes after the state health department declared a public health emergency connected to the vaping products

In New York, state health officials voted Tuesday to carry out Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive action to ban sales of most flavored e-cigarettes for 90 days. Cuomo expects the New York State Legislature to consider a permanent ban when it reconvenes in January.

Useful Links

Montgomery County Press Release: Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Craig Rice Introduce Zoning Change and Legislation to Keep Vape Shops and Distributors Away from Schools

Councilmember Albornoz’s Remarks at the Introduction of  ZTA 19-06 and Bill 29-19

Councilmember Rice’s remarks at the introduction of ZTA 19-06 and Bill 29-19

Council Staff Reports on ZTA 19-06 and Bill 29-19

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