Federal law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, but that hasn’t stopped under-aged teens from purchasing the devices in record numbers. The city of Miami Beach, concerned with the high number of youth using e-cigarettes, has taken matters into their own hands and “passed new rules designed to keep the devices” out of the hands of teens. These new rules come on the heel of a new school district-wide campaign targeting e-cigarette and vaping use in their city. Hopefully, this one-two punch will help decrease e-cigarette use by youth in this Florida city.
On Tuesday, October 16, Miami Beach school leaders and community officials introduced an awareness campaign with the message for students and parents that “nicotine addiction is dangerous, no matter how you smoke it” with the aim focused on e-cigarettes. Administrators and teachers will be trained on how to spot teens using the devices in schools, and e-cigarette detection devices will be installed in several of the high schools. Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho placed the blame on the tobacco companies for the increase in teen vaping, saying “all they want is to get you hooked.” While the FDA is stating steps must be taken to address the vaping epidemic among youth, Miami-Dade County is moving forward with their own plans to protect their students to get the situation under control.
Teens themselves said they are able to get around the age restrictions by purchasing the devices through the internet, by having a willing adult purchase them, or by finding a store that doesn’t check ID. Because of this, Miami Beach city officials passed new rules on Wednesday, October 17 that will hopefully bring an end to underage sales, “strengthen age verification requirements for businesses that sell e-cigarettes and stiffen penalties for violators.” Businesses, including online stores, will have to obtain proof that a customer is over 18 by getting “a copy of a customer’s driver’s license and verifying the customer’s information in a ‘commercially available database’.” Currently, selling to a minor is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail. Under the new rules, businesses could have their license suspended up to six months, and a second violation could mean a loss of it altogether.
Miami Beach and Florida aren’t the only areas that have seen skyrocketing e-cigarette use by teens. The 2016 Surgeon General’s Report on E-cigarettes states high school student use increased 900% between 2011 to 2015, and e-cigs are the most commonly used form of tobacco by youth in the United States. According to the 2018 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey County Reports, 11.2% of students in Miami-Dade County have ever tried cigarettes, while 28.4% have tried electronic vaping. Cigarette use in the county is below state levels of 11.4% while e-cigarette use is slightly above the state level of 26.3%. And while 2.3% currently use cigarettes, 15.2% currently use vaping devices.
Florida is fortunate in that we have one of the lowest youth smoking rates in the nation at 3.6%, but decreases in smoking are currently offset by increases in use of e-cigarettes at 24.8%., according to The Toll of Tobacco in Florida. One way our state can continue to lower smoking rates as well as decrease youth e-cigarette use is through student education which the Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course is able to provide. School administrators, school counselors and educators, with a current FLDOE certificate, can take either the 30- or 60-point course at no cost to them or their school district. Both courses now feature an entire chapter dedicated to e-cigarettes and vaping. At the conclusion of the course, course participants teach six (6) tobacco prevention lessons to students before being awarded points to renew their certificate. The course is available for public, private and charter schools in all 67 Florida districts.
It is great to see laws passed to protect our youth from an industry that wants addicted, life-long customers, but let’s educate our teens about the products being sold to them so they can make informed decisions about their health and future.