RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Smoke and vape shops opening in Wake County will have to abide by a new set of rules.
Wake County commissioners voted to implement new rules on tobacco and hemp stores opening in the future. Under the new restrictions, businesses that primarily sell tobacco and hemp are barred from opening within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, greenways, and homes. Grocery stores and gas stations would be exempt from the rule.
The rule only applies in unincorporated areas of Wake County where the commission has authority. Individual municipalities including Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale, Rolesville and Zebulon already similar restrictions in place.
While county leaders hope the change will deter children from having access to tobacco or hemp, county staff report there are no existing tobacco or hemp retailers that would be impacted by the updated restriction. The plan does impact future businesses around 10 schools.
“Evidence shows that reducing the availability of tobacco to minors is an effective way to curb its use,” said Shinica Thomas, chair, Wake County Board of Commissioners. “As a board, we are committed to the health, safety and quality of life of all of our residents — especially our children.”
Data shared by Wake County Public School System with CBS 17 shows that 1,044 students violated the district’s Tobacco, Vaporizing, and Nicotine Products Policy last school year. It was a 21 percent increase from the year before.
WCPSS requested an ordinance update in February.
The change comes as school districts continue to struggle with bringing down youth smoking rates. Earlier this year, leaders at Leesville Road High School chose to close some of their restrooms as a result of ongoing student vaping.
The N.C. Youth Tobacco Survey compiled by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services found e-cigarette use by high school students increased more than 1,000% from 2011 to 2019. It went up 510% for middle school students in that same time frame.