Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in South Carolina. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by South Carolina's elected officials:
1. Defend state funding of $5 million for tobacco control programs and ensure that funding is spent according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs;
2. Support the licensing of all tobacco retailers, including electronic cigarette retailers; and
3. Oppose all forms of preemption of state and local tobacco control authority.

The South Carolina General Assembly opened with several pre-filed bills in 2020 seeking to address the growing use of electronic cigarettes and other vaping products among youth. Bills to establish licensing of retail tobacco sellers including electronic cigarettes were introduced in the House and the Senate, but neither moved out of their assigned committees. Tobacco retail licensing reduces initiation to nicotine and tobacco through improved compliance with laws that prohibit sales of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes to minors.

South Carolina is one of only about 10 states that does not require a license for retail sales of tobacco products. The American Lung Association supports licensing of tobacco retailers. Those who sell to minors must face strict, graduated financial penalties and loss of license. Enforcement of these laws must be diligently pursued and should include using minors in compliance checks. The Lung Association hopes to see this legislation re-introduced in the 2021 session.

House Bill 4710, introduced in 2020, sought to provide a comprehensive tobacco product definition. A broad definition of "tobacco product" can cover all current, known tobacco products, which include not only cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco, but also products like pipes, rolling papers, electronic smoking devices, and other related devices. This definition can aid in compliance and enforcement by clearly specifying what exactly is being prohibited. HB 4710 passed the House and was up for consideration in the Senate, however this along with other legislation was put aside by COVID-19. The Lung Association hopes to see this legislation get another chance in 2021 as well.

According to the 2019 South Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey, 22% of South Carolina high school students currently use e-cigarettes. The American Lung Association has long advocated for policies to reduce youth tobacco use and has set a goal of reducing the youth e-cigarette prevalence rate to 15% by 2025. In South Carolina, an important first step must be the establishment of tobacco licensing for all tobacco retailers, including electronic cigarette retailers. The Lung Association will educate the public and elected officials on the role this law can play in reducing youth initiation to tobacco products and encourage legislation to affect that change. The Lung Association will continue to support funding for the State Tobacco Prevention and Control Program and oppose all efforts to prevent local governments from passing tobacco control ordinances stronger than state law.
  • South Carolina Facts
  • Economic Cost Due to Smoking: $1,906,984,487

  • Adult Smoking Rate: 17.6%

  • High School Smoking Rate: 5.9%

  • High School Tobacco Use Rate: 27.5%

  • Middle School Smoking Rate: 3.2%

  • Smoking Attributable Deaths per Year: 7,230

Adult smoking data come from CDC's 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. High school smoking and tobacco use data come from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Middle school smoking rate is taken from the 2017 Youth Tobacco Survey.

, | Jun 24, 2021