GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - While the number of teens smoking cigarettes has dropped significantly, the popularity of vaping continues growing for young people.
The FDA is now calling teen vaping an epidemic and taking steps to stop it.
It’s a problem owner of the Vape Spot in Gulfport and Biloxi Richard Fernandez is all too familiar with.
“I kick about three or four high school kids out of this store a week just trying to buy the Juul devices,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez has a clear policy, and you can see signs all over his store saying he won’t sell his products to minors.
“A good store will always check the ID on anyone who looks under 30,” he explained.
Fernandez' policy is one the Food and Drug Administration would like others to follow. The FDA sent letters to more than 1,000 businesses across the country warning them to stop selling e-cigarettes to minors or face the consequences. According to Fernandez, discouraging stores like his from selling to teens is nothing new.
“We actually had a surprise inspection a couple of times,” Fernandez said. “They sent their agents in here to do checks a couple of times, so it was no problem.”
The most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey found 2.1 million middle and high school students use e-cigarettes. While the flavors can be a draw for young people to use e-cigarettes, Fernandez said vaping is designed to help people stop smoking cigarettes, and the problem for young people comes with the nicotine.
“What these kids don’t understand is the flavors are fantastic, but the nicotine content that comes with these flavor pods is where the problem lies,” said Fernandez.
The FDA is giving e-cigarette manufacturers 60 days to share plans to reduce youth sales or face possible criminal or civil action.