LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge sent warning letters to dozens of online sellers as well as the CEO of e-commerce giant eBay over the way vaping products are reaching teens in the state.
The announcement of the notices kicked off the first of two vaping summits scheduled in the state. Words like "epidemic" and "crisis" are now being used by the Arkansas leaders who joined the discussions Monday at Arkansas Children's Hospital.
"This crisis just came on like a tsunami," Rutledge said while moderating a panel of educators, lawmakers and law enforcement personnel. "It has grown exponentially over the last 8 years, where it is 20-30% where it had just been two percent."
The letters to vaping sellers remind them of laws prohibiting shipping products into the state with possible civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation.
Another letter went to the biggest online marketplace: calling out the CEO of E-Bay, Devin N. Weing, for failing to enforce its rules against selling vaping products.
"These retailers are beginning to understand that it is illegal to sell state of Arkansas these products and to ship them into the state of Arkansas," said Rutledge, a second-term Republican. "It's important they understand it's illegal to sell these products to teenagers."
The goal is to dry up the online market; open or otherwise.
"All vaping is unregulated, unapproved and as far as I'm concerned, black market," said Dr. Cam Patterson, the chancellor of UAMS while part of a five-person panel of medical professionals.
State drug director Kirk Lane drew chuckles while reading from a "nutritional facts" page attached to a box of THC vaping products delivered and seized recently in Saline County.
"'The nutritional value is depending on how big of a pothead you are,'" Lane read, highlighting the marketing of THC in this era of quasi-legal marijuana. "This was on a box that was marketed through the internet and this is what's coming into our state."
Along with the chuckles from Lane came an applause line from a member of the doctors' panel.
"Stop marketing these products to my children, period," said Dr. Tamara Perry, a clinician with Arkansas Children's.
Rutledge said she is watching the progress of lawsuits brought in other states against the vaping industry while reserving the right to bring one of her own.
A second vaping summit is scheduled for Oct. 9th in northwest Arkansas.