A bill that would move the sale of “enhanced vapor products” to stores inaccessible by people under age 21 was approved by a House committee Wednesday morning.

House Bill 69 was sponsored by Rep. Jerry Miller, a Louisville Republican, and it was approved by the members of the House’s Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee.

It is the second vaping bill of Miller’s that was approved by a committee this week. On Tuesday, a committee approved House Bill 32, which places a 25% wholesale tax on vaping devices.

Miller said Wednesday the two bills are companions and geared toward curbing the use of vaping products by high school and middle school students.

“This bill gets at the heart of an issue that has become very critical in our schools,” Miller said. When talking to students last week about vaping, Miller said he was told students in middle school are being offered “the opportunity to vape.”

House Bill 69 creates a definition for “enhanced vapor product” to include both reusable and disposable devices that contain nicotine, THC or CBD oil, other “mood-altering substances” and flavorings other than tobacco or menthol. An “enhanced vapor product” would have a nicotine strength of 4% or more.

While most flavorings have been banned, the language did not cover disposable vaping devices, which are now being marketed to get around the ban, Miller said.

If approved, vape shops that cannot be entered by people under age 21 would be the only places where “enhanced vaping products” could be sold. The stores would have to obtain a state license and products purchased could be traced back to the store.

Products that are tobacco or menthol-flavored would still be available for purchase at other outlets.

“This bill does not ban anything,” Miller said.”... This bill simply seeks to regulate a product adults should be able to use,” but is prone to abuse by students, he said.

Miller’s bill would also ban the sale of “enhanced vapor products” online, and would prohibit the products from being shipped into the state.

While the Kentucky Smoke Free Association was against imposing a tax on vaping products, House Bill 69 “will help” vape shops by limiting sales of most vaping products to their stores.

Abby Piper, executive administrator for government and community relations with Jefferson County Public Schools, said the use of vaping products “has become a school safety issue for us.”

“In the first 74 days of school this year, we documented 140 vaping incidents,” Piper said.

Vaping products affect student learning and concentration, Piper said, adding that one e-cigarette pod “is about 26 cigarettes of nicotine.”

The devices also contain compounds such as lead, nickel and tin, Piper said.

“There’s a significant concern, and those concerns are reaching the national level,” she said.

A vape shop that sells to someone under 21 would risk losing its license. Jason Underwood, who represents the Kentucky Smoke Free Association, said there has only been one violation of a vapor shop selling to someone underage in the last three years.

Underwood said the association supports House Bill 69, and stores began selling only to people over 18, and then over 21, before those laws began to be enforced.

“We do not sell to children,” Underwood said. The devices that vape shop sell “are intended to be a (smoking) cessation device,” he said.

Troy LeBlanc, chairman of the Smoke Free Association, said, “we are doing everything we can to keep this out of teen hands.”

Both House Bill 69 and House Bill 32 will be scheduled to be considered by the full House.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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