NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In 2021, Tennessee law made it illegal to sell tobacco and e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21. To enforce that compliance, Hendersonville Police went to eight stores Monday with a minor working with police.
According to detectives, three of the eight stores sold vaping products to that minor. A fourth store reportedly sold alcohol to that minor.
The clerks who sold to the minor were cited with misdemeanor citations.
One of the stores the minor entered was the New Shackle Island Road Market. When the minor tried to buy e-cigarettes illegally, the clerk said no.
Omar Alazab was behind the counter Tuesday morning and told News 2 he was also working Monday.
Alazab said he always asks minors for identification.
“You have to. You are selling vapes and stuff, that is basically nicotine like you are selling a pack of cigarettes,” Alazab said. “I mean it’s a kid. Come on man, you have to be at least 21 to buy anything like that.”
Alazab said minors frequently try and buy the vaping products that adorn the front of his counter. He said he turns them down, but he knows they can get it elsewhere.
“I do get a lot of kids who do come in and try and get it. They always go somewhere else,” Alazab said. “They will always try and get it and they always get it from someone else. Like you said, 50% of the city is selling it and don’t care.”
According to the CDC, one pod from an e-cigarette contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of regular tobacco cigarettes.
These products are highly addictive and can harm an adolescent brain — which is why Hendersonville police routinely do compliance checks throughout the city.
“We go out and enforce these laws because we don’t want them to have issues later,” Sgt. Chris Gagnon said. “A lot of these kids who use these vape products, they are being utilized for other things, like dabbing and oils, using them to get high. Essentially, it is just a hot tool that vaporizes anything that you put into it.”
50% complied. 50% didn’t.
“We will continue to do these compliance checks and arrest people as they sell,” Sgt. Gagnon said. “And at some point, if it continues and the store itself becomes a nuisance then if it gets to a point that we need to shut you down we will shut you down.”
In an unrelated operation, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department did a comparable compliance check a few days earlier.
Sheriff John Myers told News 2, a minor working with detectives went into 10 stores, and clerks in half the stores sold to the minor.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, over the last two years, vaping has increased by 218% among middle schoolers and 135% among high schoolers.
Lawrence County Sheriff John Myers said vaping, e-cigarettes and the associated products sold with them, are a huge problem in the schools.
“You talk to my SRO’s and they will tell you they have an evidence safe full of this stuff that they are getting out of our schools,” Sheriff Myers said.
The department seized products with tropical and sweet names like, “Tahiti Lush Ice,” “Cotton Candy” and “Banana Cookies.”
“I mean our SRO’s are fighting this stuff every day. It makes up for most of the complaints that we see in our schools now,” Sheriff Myers said. “The old days of finding snuff and cigarettes and other tobacco are pretty much gone.”
He also commented on half the stores failing the undercover compliance check.
“We are batting 500. It’s not good. I wish none of them would have sold. It’s a problem we are seeing,” Sheriff Myers said. “The THC vapes are dangerous, and if anyone tells you differently, they don’t know.”
Like the Hendersonville police, Sheriff Myers has a tough message for stores that will continue to sell to underage patrons.
“It’s simple. If you do it, we will catch you, and if we catch you, we will put you in jail. It’s that simple.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, teens who vape are three times more likely than non-vapers to become daily cigarette smokers.