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Supporters of vape flavor ban vow to keep fighting despite veto

'These were not people who smoked in the past,' state lawmaker says
Posted at 7:45 PM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 19:45:21-04

It's not over yet. Champions of a vape flavor ban, which the governor vetoed Tuesday night, are promising it will return next session.

It would have banned flavoring used in vaping until the FDA approved. The bill also sought to raise the buying age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 -- aligning with federal law.

Gov. Ron DeSantis' veto dropped like a bomb for supporters of SB 810. It had bipartisan support in both chambers this year and was a major priority for both Senate President Bill Galvano and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

"I am disappointed with the governor's decision," Moody said in a statement. "The United States and Florida Surgeons General have declared vaping to be an epidemic. As the Attorney General and a mother, I will continue to advocate for legislation and in our courts to protect Florida's children."

State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, said she was in shock when she had heard of the measure's demise. Toledo had helped craft the House version in hopes of deterring teens from picking up e-cigarettes, which often taste like fruit or candy.

About 26 percent of Florida high school students used e-cigarettes last year, according to advocacy group Tobacco Free Florida.

"These were not people who smoked in the past," Toledo said. "These are new users and now are addicted to nicotine products."

DeSantis' decision mostly centered on the flavor restrictions, according to his veto letter. In it, he worried former smokers would go back to cigarettes, vapers would turn to the black market, and small businesses would be devastated by the loss of sales.

"This legislation would almost assuredly lead more people to resume smoking cigarettes, and it would drive others to the hazardous black market," DeSantis said in the letter. "The latter consequence is especially significant because the much-publicized cases of lung injury associated with vaping in recent years have been traced to illegal, or black market, vape cartridges containing THC, not to the types of legal vaping products that this bill would abolish."

The governor also called the bill's age provision "superfluous" as federal law is already in effect.

Only seven states have flavor bans, according to the Public Health Law Center. Florida remains in the majority of states without, but it also lacks other vaping regulations many states have. Florida has no special tax on e-cigarettes, no sales permit requirement, or limitations on the packaging.

That lack of regulation is why Toledo vowed to keep pushing for her changes next legislative session.

"We won't give up the fight," she said. "This is something we need to address. It's still an epidemic."

Lawmakers return to Tallahassee in under six months. The 2021 legislative session begins on March 2.