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  • Ansley Puckett

HHA Collaborates With Local Businesses to Curb Illegal E-cigarette Sales

Holly Hill Academy is working with local convenience store owners to curb underage purchases of Delta-8 products and vape pens.

Nation-wide, about one in five high school students used e-cigarettes in 2020, according to the Truth Initiative, America’s largest nonprofit public health organization working to end tobacco use and nicotine addiction.

This epidemic is affecting kids all over the United States, including students in Holly Hill, who can gain access to these harmful substances.

According to the CDC, the use of e-cigarettes by kids, teens, and young adults is particularly harmful to brain development, can cause lung injury, and young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke real cigarettes in the future.

In order to bring awareness to the issue, HHA Head of School, Brandy Mullennax, met with Raj and Nick Patel, the owners of Marathon, Synoco, Texaco, and Gaz-Bah, to inquire about their protocols for purchases and prevention of underage buyers.

“I wanted to ensure that our business owners are taking extra measures to ensure the health and safety of our students,” Mrs. Mullennax said.

E-cigarettes were originally developed to help adult smokers quit the habit. However, when companies introduced flavored e-cigarettes, the amount of teens who began to use e-cigarettes increased.

According to Nick and Raj, items sold in their stores are purchased through reputable vendors they have used for years. However, in order to gain access to these products, some consumers are obtaining them through online sellers.

“It is illegal to purchase these types of pens online in South Carolina, so others are ordering online from other states for personal use,” Raj said.

Nick and Raj also said they train their employees to follow procedures and be vigilant when selling e-cigarette products.

“When these are implemented, it is easy to tell when someone is lying or trying to get away with something,” Nick said.

The state also conducts surprise visits once a month to ensure stores are complying with the 21 age limit.

“Our employees know that if they do not take all precaution protocols necessary to ensure illegal purchasing of items and a ticket is received, they will be responsible for paying the ticket,” Raj said.

Raj said knowing his customers and being involved with the community is also a key factor in preventing underage use of e-cigarettes.

Mrs. Mullennax is hoping that through this collaborative effort, they can limit the amount of underage students that gain access to harmful substances.

“I believe that educating employees, increasing their observation skills to notice the frequency of the items customers are purchasing, and follow up protocols to IDS is just the beginning,” Mrs. Mullennax said. “I appreciate the extra diligence, time invested for employee training, and concern for our students that Mr. Patel has put in place his business.”

On Sept. 27, Mrs. Mullennax also called a meeting with the HHA Board of Directors to discuss the policies for e-cigarettes products on campus. She requested additional clarification, discipline, and a probationary program to help students dealing with the addiction of these products.

The Board of Directors were in support of updatating, clarifying, and implementing new student support services to promote educational awareness and prevent the use of these products.

“We’ve got to do something, and this hemp derived problem is not going away,” Mrs. Mullennax said. “When the ruling was issued that hemp-derived Delta-8 falls in the definition of ‘hemp’ under the 2018 Farm Bill, it allowed for a legal high. This legal high is now being used by consumers. These consumers are not just 21, they are middle and high school students. They are people driving, operating equipment, or doing other activities that put other lives at risk.”

Mrs. Susan Paramore said the Board of Directors are attuned to the needs of HHA students and the voices of stakeholders.

“At Holly Hill Academy, our students’ health and safety have always been a top priority,” Mrs. Paramore said. “This prevention policy that the Board has put into place, is just one more way of ensuring that we make a difference in the lives of our students.”

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