House bill seeks to end tobacco sales to minors

March 8, 2024 | 12:10 am

Updated March 8, 2024 | 12:14 am

Rep. Rebecca Raymer, R-Morgantown, speaks on House Bill 11 in the House Health Services Committee meeting on Thursday. | Photo by KY LRC

Another bill seeking to reduce tobacco use and vaping among Kentucky youth is on the move in the Kentucky House.

Rep. Rebecca Raymer, R-Morgantown, presented House Bill 11 to the House Health Services Committee on Thursday. The bill would bring state law in line with the FDA’s regulations on tobacco products and improve Kentucky’s ability to enforce the law, especially when it comes to sales to minors.

Raymer said she began working on the legislation after finding out most products being confiscated at Kentucky schools are flavored and disposable vapes.

“Looking further, I found out these vapes are not even supposed to be offered for sale per the FDA,” Raymer added.

In 2019, Congress passed a federal law raising the tobacco age to 21 nationwide.

HB 11 would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21. The bill would also ban certain tobacco products and set penalties for wholesalers and retailers who violate the restrictions.

Retailers caught selling products to minors would be issued a $100 to $500 fine on the first citation, a $1,000 fine on the second citation, and a $5,000 fine on a third or subsequent citation. On any fourth or subsequent citation within a 2-year period, the retailer would lose the ability to sell Tobacco Control Act products for 1 year, according to the bill.

HB 11 would not punish minors who buy or attempt to purchase these products, only the adults involved.

Mallory Jones, a high school student from Winchester, spoke in support of HB 11 alongside a few other advocates. She said vaping among Kentucky youth is a serious issue, and addressing the source is critical.

“Kentucky high school students’ e-cigarette usage has surpassed that of the national adult rate of cigarette use,” Mallory said. “It is an adult’s responsibility to protect kids from the harmful effects of nicotine and keep these products out of the hands of me and my peers.”

Troy LeBlanc, a tobacco-related retailer and manufacturer, joined a few other industry stakeholders to share their concerns about the legislation. LeBlanc said he supports keeping Kentuckians under 21 away from tobacco products and raising fines for violators, but he has concerns about the plan to ban certain tobacco products altogether.

LeBlanc said HB 11 would effectively ban lower nicotine content products and leave only high nicotine content products on the shelves, which involves only a handful of brands.

Rep. Rachel Roarx, D-Louisville, said she appreciates the bill’s goal to keep Kentucky youth away from nicotine products, but she has concerns HB 11 might have unintended consequences on the tobacco and e-cigarette industry.

“I hope we can continue to make progress to make sure that we’re not just giving a couple of brands a monopoly on the entire industry,” Roarx said.

Raymer said since Congress gave the FDA the authority to regulate the products, it is the state’s responsibility to follow the FDA’s rules.

“We as a state have an obligation to offer some public protection to our citizens,” Raymer said. “If we know these products are not authorized – they’re not legal per the FDA – we shouldn’t have them on the shelf.”

Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, asked Raymer how the bill addresses enforcement. Raymer said HB 11 gives local law enforcement the power to issue citations and report the violations to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which would impose the fines.

The House Health Services Committee approved HB 11 by a 14 to 1 vote with 3 pass votes.

HB 11 will now go before the full House for consideration.

Information from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

March 8, 2024 | 12:10 am

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