TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. — Vaping products being sold to minors is a problem plaguing many big cities and smaller Mid-South communities.
Vaping among minors is on the rise in Tipton County, but people living there say they are doing something about the problem and cracking down on stores making illegal sales of vaping products to young people under the age of 21.
“It’s pretty prevalent, unfortunately. We find that tobacco vaping can be found at just about any gas station and vape store in Tipton County,” said Tipton County Chief Deputy Chris Williams. “We are seeing an uptick in it. Obviously, as a parent myself, it’s concerning.”
About ten years ago, Tipton County law enforcement and health leaders admitted they thought, like so many others, that the U.S. was going to have its first nicotine-free generation. But they said vaping came along with students using it in schools and at home.
“So we’re seeing an addiction or dependence to nicotine that we thought we were not going to be dealing with at this point in time. So, we’re going backwards a little,” said Robin Racine, director of Drug Free Tipton.
Earlier this year, Dr. John Combs, the superintendent of Tipton County Schools, sent out a letter asking vape stores not to sell their products to minors. The letter was signed by the sheriff, school leaders, hospital CEOs, and many others.
“It’s just something to show that collectively we don’t want vaping here in Tipton County. We don’t want it in our schools. We don’t want it in our homes. We want to do everything we can legally to prevent it because it is illegal,” said Chief Deputy Williams.
The sheriff’s office is also cracking down on businesses breaking the law.
“We conduct undercover vaping operations. We send in persons under the age of 21 to try and buy a controlled substance similar to what we do with underage alcohol,” said Williams.
That’s why they have a warning for parents and their children.
“We want parents to know that this is just as addictive as a traditional cigarette, and it just opens the door to problems down the road that our youth can definitely prevent,” said Racine.
Tipton County leaders said they’re also doing classes with minors caught with vapes in school. They’re finding many students are already dependent and addicted to nicotine.