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Press Releases - County Council

Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Craig Rice introduce zoning change and legislation to keep vape shops and distributors away from schools

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

ROCKVILLE, Md., Sept. 17, 2019—Today Montgomery County Councilmember Gabe Albornoz, who serves as Health and Human Services (HHS) Chair, and Craig Rice, Chair of the Council’s Education and Culture (E&C) Committee, introduced Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 19-06, which would prohibit vape shops that sell e-cigarettes and similar products from opening within a half mile of a public or private middle or high school. It will also require vape shops that are now operating in those locations to close within 24 months. They also introduced Bill 29-19, Health and Sanitation – Electronic Cigarettes – Distribution. This legislation would prohibit manufacturers of e-cigarettes from distributing them to retail stores within a half mile of a middle or high school through a Board of Health Regulation.

“Vaping has reached epidemic proportions among our youth. More than 3.6 million middle and high schoolers are currently using e-cigarettes,” said Councilmember Albornoz.

“Every day, we hear alarming news about vaping. Just last week, we learned that U.S. health officials identified approximately 450 possible cases of serious breathing illnesses in youth linked to vaping, including five in Maryland. In our own County, three students were hospitalized after vaping on school grounds. There is simply no reason to make these products available in stores frequented by underaged students.”

“Unfortunately, nationwide we’re seeing a trend among our youth of increasing use of e-cigarette and vaping devices,” said Councilmember Rice. “We have the responsibility to restrict their access to these devices beyond the typical measures, to prevent their addiction and the actualization of adverse health effects. I am confident our legislative action on the local level will help prevent and alleviate this growing epidemic. I look forward to more jurisdictions joining us in our fight to help ensure a healthy future for our youth.”

“Vaping caries significant health risks, particularly for adolescents and young adults,” said Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles. “Early exposure to nicotine can impact the development of key areas in the brain that are important for executive, higher-level functioning. Additionally, early exposure can increase a child’s level of dependence, withdrawal and initiation to other substances. There are also significant unknown risks given the recent cases of vaping-related respiratory illnesses.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers that illegally sold e-cigarettes and other vaping products to minors, in what it calls “the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA’s history.” It has called e-cigarette use among teens an “epidemic.”

Similarly, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), e-cigarette use among high school students rose by 78 percent and e-cigarette use among middle school students rose by 48 percent. Many of the vaping devices contain significantly higher levels of addictive nicotine than traditional cigarettes, and in some cases, include additional harmful substances and drug paraphernalia.

Yesterday evening, a televised expert panel discussion on MyMCMedia highlighted the health issues related to vaping and the public health threat posed by increased use among teens: .

Councilmember Albornoz’s remarks at the introduction of the ZTA and bill can be viewed here: .

Councilmember Rice’s remarks at the introduction of the ZTA and bill can be viewed here: .

The Council staff reports on both legislative measures can be viewed here: .

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Release ID: 19-297
Media Contact: Joy Nurmi 240-777-7961, Sharon Ledner 240-777-7951