ATLANTA — A Gwinnett County lawmaker says she’s ready to combat teen vaping.
Representative Bonnie Rich has announced plans to introduce legislation in the 2020 session to make nicotine-laced vape pods harder for those under 18 to access.
"As a mother of teenagers, I have firsthand knowledge of the insidious and harmful effects of youth vaping in our community. For years I have battled the problem alongside other parents and our school administrators. Now, as a legislator, I have the ability to do more," explained Rich.
While several states and cities have banned flavored vape pods temporarily in the wake of the mysterious illness now impacting more than 1,000 people across the country, Gov. brian Kemp’s office says they’re still studying the issue.
Rich, a Republican representing Suwanee, says it’s time to stop studying and take action. Her bill is still being drafted, but she explained to The Reveal investigator Rebecca Lindstrom her intent.
First, she wants to require vape pods be sold only in specially-licensed stores making enforcement of underage sales easier. The Reveal went undercover to see how teens were accessing e-juice.
We sent in Courtney Greer, an 11Alive employee who looks young, but is of age.
All of the vape shops we visited refused to sell to our buyer because she didn’t have ID. But the gas stations were hit or miss.
“They didn’t even ask. Seemed very nonchalant. [Just] took my money," said Greer.
The FDA conducts its own undercover buys with the help of law enforcement. It has issued 80 warning letters in the past three years to Georgia retailers caught illegally selling vape juice.
The FDA found similar results here in Georgia, of those failing to follow the law, 71 were gas stations or corner markets.
Rich’s bill would attempt to close another loop: online sales.
Rich says she learned of a teen that would save his allowance and spare change to buy Visa gift cards. He then used those gift cards to buy vape juice online. Since he got home before his parents, picking up the delivery undetected was easy.
That’s why Rich wants to require ID for package delivery to guarantee the recipient is 18 and older. It’s a tool already used by members of wine clubs for alcohol delivery. The recipient either has to be home at the time of delivery to show ID, or pick it up at the post office.
Rich says she also wants to ban all flavored products except mint and tobacco.
She believes fruity and candy flavors target children, not adults, and are not necessary products for those using the product as intended – to stop smoking.
The Reveal is an investigative show exposing inequality, injustice, and ineptitude created by people in power throughout Georgia and across the country. It airs Sunday nights at 6 on 11Alive.