Vaping could land Alabama teens in juvenile court under new bill

By Jemma Stephenson and Alabama Reflector

Alabama Senator Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman)d pre-files bill targeting youth tobacco and vaping, proposing penalties for possession amid rising concerns over underage nicotine use.

An Alabama senator has pre-filed a bill that would provide penalties to youths, including potential juvenile court or fines, who possess tobacco or electronic nicotine delivery systems.

SB 2, sponsored by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, would subject most teenagers to juvenile court if they “receive, buy or attempt to obtain tobacco, (a) tobacco product, (an) electronic nicotine delivery system, e-liquid, or alternative nicotine products.” (This interview was conducted before Gudger was seriously injured Thursday in a jet ski accident.)

It also establishes filing and permit fees for distributing tobacco, tobacco products, electronic nicotine delivery systems, or alternative nicotine products and and funds State Board of Education to provide vaping awareness; education and prevention programs, and drug prevention and education curriculum.

Gudger deferred questions to Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, Tuesday.

“Vaping has become an epidemic, not only in this country among young people, but also in the state of Alabama, and this bill will give us an opportunity, not only to regulate it, but also to enforce it, enforce the laws that we now have on the books,” she said.

Drummond said the clerk was supposed to have filed the bill. It has not appeared online yet, as of Tuesday afternoon.

Drummond said that this is her third time filing the bill, and it was not passed this year due to being caught up in the drama of the final day of the session.

“You know what happens on the last day,” she said. “That bill got caught up.”

Drummond said that this upcoming session’s bill is the same as the one that was caught up this past session.

No fiscal note is attached to the bill, but Drummond said it would collect around $2.5 million from convenience stores that sell the products.
The fiscal note for Drummond’s 2024 vaping bill, as passed second chamber committee, said it would cost around $800,000 but would provide Tobacco Licensing and Compliance Fund around $900,000 and to the Public Safety Fund an estimated minimum of $300,000.

According to a 2016 Surgeon General report on e-cigarette use by youths and young adults, youth are vulnerable to the effects of nicotine exposure, including addiction, priming for other addictive substances, attention and cognition deficiencies and mood disorders. According to the CDC, e-cigarettes are the most common nicotine use by U.S. youths.

The bill also states that minors will be under the exclusive jurisdiction of a juvenile court for the pos- session or attempted possession.

“It will also give educators an opportunity now, when a kid is caught, just like with alcohol,” Drummond said. “They’re having to send those children to adult c”.