Legislation introduced would limit sale of illegal vape products

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Feb. 1—An Oklahoma lawmaker representing northwestern Cleveland County has introduced legislation intended to crack down on illegal vape products.

Rep. Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City) introduced HB3971, which would expand on existing tobacco regulations, ahead of the 2024 Regular Session, which convenes on Monday.

The bill alters legislation passed in 2021 that required every manufacturer of vapor products sold in the state to register its products with the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission (ABLE).

Registry was dependent on the product's standing with the Food and Drug Administration. ABLE was required to publish the registered manufacturers in a directory online.

Echols' bill would move the directory from ABLE to the Attorney General's office. The Attorney General will be responsible for making the directory publicly accessible through a webpage.

In addition to the products' inclusion in the directory being contingent on their standing with the FDA, the bill would also require the manufacturers to provide the Attorney General with copies of monthly reports they make as required by federal tobacco and nicotine laws.

The Attorney General's office would be responsible for making any changes to the directory monthly. If a manufacturer falls out of compliance, the Attorney General must give the manufacturer notice at least 15 days in advance of pulling their product from the directory.

Each certifying manufacturer must pay $5,000 when first registering with the Attorney General's office, and pay a renewal fee of $2,500 every year thereafter, to offset costs associated with maintaining the directory.

A manufacturer who sells a vapor product not registered through the directory would be subject to a daily fine of $1,000 until the violating product was pulled from the market or properly listed on the directory.

Wholesalers and retailers will have 21 and 42 days, respectively, to return any noncompliant vapor products to the manufacturer. Wholesalers and retailers who continue to sell noncompliant products are subject to fines, and for repeat violations, suspension or revocation of their license to sell tobacco and vapor products.

Agents associated with the Attorney General's office, including ABLE agents, and local law enforcement will also have the power to confiscate and destroy any noncompliant products.

The bill also updates the language of existing laws regarding the sale of tobacco to include vapor products.

Echols did not respond to requests for comment, but according to a communications strategist associated with his office, Echols believes the bill is important to protecting Oklahoma's youth.

According to TSET, more than one in five Oklahoma high school students report vaping on a regular basis.

"The industry manufactures vapes in fruit and candy flavors and devices disguised as toys or school supplies. They market those products on social media in a deliberate attempt to addict our children," said Julie Bisbee, the executive director of TSET, in a statement to The Transcript. "Policies that bring additional regulation and enforcement to the vaping industry are needed to protect our kids from a lifetime of addiction to nicotine."