Tobacco-Free Youth

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In recent years, the use of e-cigarettes and vape devices among youth in South Carolina has eclipsed the use of cigarettes.  Current data show that about 1 in 5 teenagers in South Carolina currently vape. 

Nicotine is Not Safe for Youth

The nicotine found in commercial tobacco products, including the majority of e-cigarettes and vapes, is highly addictive and is related to many health conditions (diabetes, heart disease, various cancers, et al.).  In addition, studies show that vaping nicotine increases feelings of anxiety, causes mood swings, and interferes with concentration and focus

In youth, 5 mg of nicotine is all that is needed to establish dependency which is equivalent to the amount of nicotine found in about 1/4 of an e-cigarette pod or cartridge.

Learn more:  Youth Commercial Tobacco Use (SC Youth Tobacco Survey)

Young people use commercial tobacco products for a variety of reasons, including:

Social Norms

  • Mass media show tobacco product use as a normal activity.
  • Youth are more likely to use tobacco products if they see people their age using these products.
  • High school athletes are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than those of the same age who are not athletes.
  • Young people may be more likely to use tobacco products if a parent uses these products.


  • There is evidence that youth may be sensitive to nicotine and that teens can feel dependent on nicotine sooner than adults.
  • Smoking during pregnancy may increase the likelihood that the child will smoke cigarettes regularly in the future.

Mental Health

  • There is a strong relationship between youth smoking and depression, anxiety, and stress.

Other Factors

  • Not knowing how to say “no” to tobacco product use
  • Lack of support or involvement from parents
  • Accessibility, availability, and price of tobacco products
  • Doing poorly in school
  • Low self-image or self-esteem
  • Seeing tobacco product advertising in stores, on television, the Internet, in movies, or in magazines and newspapers

Youth Commercial Tobacco Prevention Resources:

Youth Access to Tobacco Prevention Act of 2006 (Section 16-17-500, as amended, Code of Laws of SC, 1976), states that youth under the age of 18 years must not purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, or attempt to possess a tobacco product or an alternative nicotine product or present or offer proof of age that is false or fraudulent for the purpose of purchasing or possessing a tobacco product or an alternative nicotine product.  A minor who violates this provision may be subject to penalties including a civil fine up to $25, to include all applicable court costs, assessments, and surcharges.

In lieu of the civil fine, the court may require a minor to successfully complete a DHEC approved smoking cessation or tobacco prevention program, or to perform not more than five hours of community service for a charitable institution. The Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control (DTPC) approves only those smoking cessation or tobacco prevention programs that meet the requirements of a proven and effective program. Through cooperation with local organizations, DTPC will maintain an updated database of available local programs. Submission of these programs or requests for further information may be directed to the DTPC staff at (803) 898-2282.

Tobacco retailers are also required by state law to post signs regarding youth access to tobacco products.  SC Department of Health and Environmental Control provides tobacco retailer signs that can be downloaded and posted according to the specifications of this amended law.

S.C. Tobacco Quitline Youth Support Program

The SC Youth Support Program (YSP) provides age-appropriate services and resources to youth who violate the state's Youth Access to Tobacco Prevention Act and are assigned an alternative punishment. This service is telephone based and toll-free, and eliminates problems such as access to services, transportation, and scheduling for youth. Referral form pads are available from DHEC for magistrates and municipal court judges to appoint youth into the program. Youth receive certificates to notify the court that they have both enrolled in and completed the program. This program is available at no charge to participants or to the court.

For information on agency approved youth commercial tobacco prevention curricula for classrooms and alternatives to suspension visit our Tobacco-Free Schools webpage.  





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