SARASOTA, Fla. - A new report says vaping among Florida high school students jumped a whopping 58% in the last year.
Stopping it is priority No. 1 for parents, law enforcement, and school leaders, but it's not easy when some stores are willing to sell vaping products to minors.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office is cracking down. Deputies cited a number of stores for selling to teens.
“This kind of goes in line with underage drinking or selling to underage children,” said Sarasota Co. Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brian Gregory. “We don’t know what the long term effects of the product are. There’s a reason why there’s an age limit.”
It’s a challenge for parents, law enforcement, and stores.
A tip from a parent brought deputies to investigate a few stores in the county. With help from the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, deputies cited eight stores for breaking the law. They visited 29, in total.
The King of Vape Shop in Sarasota was not cited. Sales Manager Ross Greenlee says he works hard to keep his products out of kid's hands.
“You’ve got to stay on top of it. You can’t get lazy,” Greenlee said. “Everybody that comes in the door, if we have never seen you and you haven’t been ID’d, then you’re getting ID’d. If you don’t have your ID, you are asked to leave.”
Greenlee says the stores that break rules give local business owners, like him, a bad name.
“It’s people just chasing after that dollar, not caring about their community. The last thing you want is a parent yelling at you about their kid getting ahold of some Juul products,” Greenlee said. “It’s tough because it’s really taking away from the people who really want to get away from traditional combustion cigarettes and whatnot.”
The Sarasota sheriff’s crackdown effort comes one day after Attorney General Ashley Moody announced an investigation into more than 20 vaping companies operating in Florida to see if they're intentionally targeting minors.
Greenlee believes raising the age limit to buy the products could help.
“If liquor is 21, then tobacco use should be 21 and up,” he pointed out.
Anyone caught selling vaping products to a minor will face a misdemeanor charge. The sheriff's office said deputies will conduct ongoing checks to make sure stores are following the rules.