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Local laws on tobacco would be blocked under South Carolina bill

The 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey revealed more than two million U.S. middle and high school students reported current e-cigarette use

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Proposals banning local governments from passing more regulations on tobacco products are making their way through the South Carolina State House.      

It comes weeks after a report ranked South Carolina near last in tobacco use and prevention. 

Day and Night Vape Shop in Columbia opened two months ago. 

‘There's a lot of traffic, a lot of students around here.  Yeah we’ve been having good business lately," said Manager Moe Raed. 

Raed said more than half the stores revenue comes from vape and e-cigarette sales. 

"People lately have been giving up tobacco since its more expensive," said Raed. 

He believes his adult customers shouldn't be restricted on what products they can buy. 

"I don't let anyone under 21 through these doors," he said. 

The measures grandfathers in any local ordinances enacted before Dec. 31, 2020. It would also ban cities from creating their own tobacco licensing rules. 

Dozens of public health groups like the American Cancer Society oppose the bills.

"We have to do something about the 30% of high school students who are using e-cigarettes and becoming addicted," said Government Relations Director Beth Johnson. "If the state passes this bill, our local communities, their hands will be tied in how they can address this problem that teachers are dealing with, schools are dealing with, parents are dealing with."

The State's Tobacco Tax brought in Nearly $30 million in 2022, according to the Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs. Supporters like Raed say regulations are bad for business and should be uniform across the state. 

"A lot of smoke shops will close.  And it will hurt  a lot of business and a lot of people too," said Raed. 

American Cancer Society argues the regulations are crucial in fighting the teen vaping epidemic. 

"It cost our state 2.2 billion annually to address the healthcare costs related to tobacco," said Johnson. 

City council member Howard Duvall also opposes the bill because he said it strips power from Local Governments. 

"For the legislature to step in and try to pass legislation that protects big businesses that are Spreading disease in our community with nicotine and smoke. I think it is an affront to the citizens of South Carolina," said Duvall. 

There are currently no cities in South Carolina looking to restrict tobacco sales. The bill does not affect local governments' ability to regulate where tobacco businesses can locate. 

An identical bill has been introduced over the past six years and has failed to pass.

South Carolina is one of ten states that don't license Tobacco sellers. A bill to do so last year got stuck in subcommittee after facing opposition from convenience store owners. 

Sponsor Rep. Beth Bernstein has reintroduced the bill this year. 

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