The Montgomery County Council introduced legislation Monday that would prohibit vape shops from selling e-cigarettes within half a mile of middle and high schools in the county.
The set of bills also would ban e-cigarette manufacturers from distributing electronic vaping products in retail stores in the same areas.
Council Members Gabe Albornoz and Craig Rice are the lead sponsors of both bills.
“We know there are 22 vape shops in Montgomery County,” Albornoz said. “Nineteen of them currently are located within a half-mile of high school and middle schools.”
Vape shop owners in the region say the legislation is unfair.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Victory Vapors store manager Briana Norris said. “Moving vape shops out of range of schools isn’t going to stop the children from said schools from going to vape shops.”
Victory Vapors, located just a few blocks from Montgomery Village Middle School is one of the 19 vape shops that will need to close if the legislation is passed.
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According to the council's staff report, the goals of the legislation are "to reduce access to e-cigarette products for County youth."
As of Tuesday, seven people in the U.S. have died from complications related to e-cigarette use. Additionally, health officials have identified hundreds of people in 36 states who have contracted lung illnesses linked to vaping and e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, surpassing conventional cigarettes in 2014, according to a 2016 Surgeon General’s report.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug that can impact learning, memory and attention among teens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers looking for a substitute for conventional cigarettes. But the CDC says the products are "not safe" for youth and young adults.
The Montgomery County Council says residents will have a chance to voice their opinions about the bill during a public hearing tentatively scheduled for Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m.