OPINION AND COMMENTARY

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Hailee Holloman, a manager at Exscape Smoke Shop on Monroe Avenue in Rochester, vapes green apple flavored nicotine on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. Holloman used vaping as a way to quit cigarette smoking, and now only vapes nicotine on occasion.

vaping

It’s in retailers’ own best interests to know which brands of e-cigarettes aren’t on the up-and-up.

USA Today Network file photo

As a retailer operating convenience stores in Wichita, I understand the importance of balancing business interests with public health concerns. It’s time for us to acknowledge the serious threat posed by the flood of illicit vaping products coming from China, especially those targeted towards our youth with enticing fruity flavors, and support the passage of the vaping directory bill now in the Legislature. House Bill 2801 would guarantee that retailers sell only Food and Drug Administration-authorized and regulated products to our customers, thereby curbing the influx of Chinese vapes showing up in our community.

Passing a vape directory bill is not only necessary, but also critical to help safeguard the well-being of Kansas’ younger generation. It’s undeniable that flavored vaping products have played a significant role in attracting young people as new users. For years, the FDA has been aware of the youth vaping issue — yet its response has consistently fallen short, allowing the situation we see today to develop. Despite minor warning letters and fines directed at brands such as Elf Bar, Esco Bar and Breeze, these products remain among the most commonly sold disposable vape brands in the U.S., according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey.

As a responsible retailer, I am deeply troubled by the idea that products sold in our community could be contributing to e-cigarette use by our children. So I am glad to see legislators at the federal level urging retailers to stop selling illicit vapes and warning about the unabated spread of these prohibited disposable flavored vapes. I hope our state leaders can join the movement to address this alarming surge and advocate for increased enforcement measures. This bill, similar to what Kansas did with publishing and maintaining a list of legal and illegal cigarette brands, would do just that and add much-needed enforcement measures and clarity in the industry.

Navigating the complex landscape of vaping products and the flow of new products as a retailer requires constant attention and vigilance. I work with vendors all the time who claim their products are legal — but because of continual brand name changes, it is nearly impossible to keep up. H.B. 2801 would make explicit which products are and are not authorized by the FDA. That would clear this confusion and empower retailers in the community to make informed decisions about which products to stock their shelves with. It would also help us to identify and avoid products that are illicitly marketed, thereby mitigating the risk of inadvertently contributing to youth vaping.

As someone who takes pride in running a responsible business and has never failed a youth tobacco sales compliance check for more than six years, demonstrating my adherence to tobacco laws, I welcome measures that would promote transparency and accountability in the industry.

I am deeply invested in our community’s well-being, which is why I am urging Kansas lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the vape directory bill. By doing so, we can protect our children from these illicit e-cigarette products and the harmful effects of vaping, promote responsible business practices, and ensure a better vaping marketplace for adult consumers.

Alexa Siddique is the owner of Schulte Food Mart, 13th St. Market and 21st St. Market in Wichita.

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