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Opinion: Protecting Consumers from Illicit Vapor Products: Missouri Retailers Stand Behind HB 2211

As a dedicated retailer deeply invested in Missouri’s economic success and well-being, I wholeheartedly endorse the proposed Vapor Product Certification Bill (HB 2211) currently being considered by the Missouri legislature. This crucial legislation not only signifies a pivotal step towards ensuring the safety and quality of vapor products for customers but also serves as an opportunity to support law-abiding retailers in the state.

his bill would create a vapor product directory for retailers to identify which products they can legally stock their shelves with. Maintaining an updated directory of authorized vapor products is a practical and invaluable resource for retailers. The publicly accessible directory established by HB 2211, which would be hosted on the Missouri Department of Revenue’s website, facilitates compliance and provides clear guidance for which vaping products are legal vs illegal. Armed with this resource, retailers like me can swiftly verify the legitimacy of the products lining our shelves, mitigating the risk of unwittingly selling non-compliant or illicit merchandise.

The main component of this bill is the requirement for manufacturers of vapor products to certify their compliance with federal regulations, particularly those established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Such a requirement is paramount to ensure that all manufacturers and retailers are held to the same high standards established by our own FDA.

While many retailers like myself have made a strong effort to keep illicit vape products off of our shelves, others have been less responsible, given the lack of enforcement from the federal government. The FDA has done little more than threaten a few select manufacturers and retailers with fines, creating little pressure for vape stores selling illicit products to stop.

Imagine this real-life scenario: A concerned customer walks into a tobacco retailer, seeking a safer alternative for their loved one who is looking to quit smoking. With the Vapor Product Certification Bill in place, retailers can confidently guide them toward certified products, knowing that they meet stringent safety standards set by the FDA. This peace of mind is critical for consumers seeking a healthier lifestyle and for retailers committed to their well-being.

The ramifications of failing to enact this bill extend far beyond regulatory compliance and consumer confidence. Unscrupulous vendors are currently flooding our communities with illegal disposable flavored vapes, evading regulatory oversight and endangering public health, particularly among impressionable youth enticed by their enticing flavors. With stringent measures in place, retailers are protected from stocking and selling these harmful products, jeopardizing both our reputation and public well-being.

HB 2211 also acknowledges the importance of interstate collaboration in combating illicit trade. By facilitating information sharing between authorities in Missouri and their counterparts in other states, this collaborative effort helps increase the effectiveness of enforcement efforts while promoting consistency in regulatory adherence across borders. This not only levels the playing field for responsible retailers but also cultivates a fair and uniform marketplace for consumers.

Given my years of experience in the retail space, I understand the significance of adhering to established regulations to safeguard the reputation and longevity of my business, and the Vapor Product Certification Bill represents a decisive approach to achieving this. By prioritizing public health, promoting regulatory compliance, and nurturing consumer confidence, this bill will reaffirm our collective dedication to responsible retailing and community welfare. I implore Missouri lawmakers to swiftly enact this bill and make it clear to consumers that their safety is our top priority.