SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The state of Missouri is cracking down on underage vaping. It announced Monday the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control will do compliance checks at vape shops in Greene and Webster Counties in November.
After one death and at least 22 vaping-related illnesses in Missouri, Governor Mike Parson issued an executive order earlier this month, telling the Department of Public Safety to find ways to deter youth vaping.
In September, the state's Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control inspected a Springfield vape shop with undercover, underage customers. Two young buyers walked 417 Vapor store on S. Campbell. Manager Martin Hedgecoke said he asked them for identification.
"I looked at their IDs and they were not of age, so I told them, I'm sorry, I cannot help you," Hedgecoke said.
Turns out, it was an undercover inspection. The customers left. Then, the store got a "congratulations" letter from the ATC. Hedgecoke now displays it proudly at the counter.
"Any sort of Nicotine product shouldn't be in the hands of a minor," Hedgecoke said.
The state of Missouri agrees. That's why more vape shops in Greene and Webster Counties could see undercover operations in November.
Mike O'Connell, with the state's Department of Public Safety said the goal is not to write shops up, but to educate those who sell vape products.
"The hope is that everybody, as far as retailers go, will be up to snuff and being extra cautious and checking ID's," O'Connell said.
O'Connell compared the compliance checks to the Missouri State Highway Patrol's sobriety saturation projects, where troopers check for drunk driving.
He said an employee or a store in violation of Missouri law could get a citation for selling tobacco a minor.
Earlier this month, Governor Parson tasked O'Connell's agency with educating teens about vaping.
"We must take action now to protect their health and well-being," Parson said at his announcement.
Parson said he wanted to see more research before banning vape products all together, even though the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has linked multiple illnesses and deaths to e-cigarettes.
Hedgecoke says, a full ban would be unfair to the vaping industry, especially because, he says, most of the illnesses were really caused by THC and vitamin E acetate. He said, consumers should be careful where they buy.
"The black market, they don't care. Drug dealers will do anything to maximize their profits, even if that is hurting people," Hedgecoke said.
O'Connell said the Division of Alcohol and Safety Control will make its rounds across the state with the compliance checks. However, anyone with concerns about a store violating the law is asked to make a complaint.
To report a potential tobacco/vaping violation call 1-877-CTP-1371, send an email to CTPCompliance@FDA.hhs.gov or click HERE.