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Gov. DeSantis vetoes bill that would have raised minimum tobacco, vaping age to 21

Posted at 9:10 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 23:40:56-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Governor Ron DeSantis has vetoed a bill that would have raised the minimum smoking age to 21 in Florida.

Earlier in the year, the state was poised to raise the minimum age for smoking and vaping to 21. But on Tuesday, in a letter sent to the Department of State Secretary, Gov. DeSantis explained that banning vaping would be "more dangerous" for hundreds of thousands of Floridians who rely on the reduced-risk alternatives to cigarettes.

Gov. DeSantis said in the letter that the bill -- Senate Bill 810 -- would lead more people to go back to smoking cigarettes and would "drive others to the hazardous black market."

While Gov. DeSantis says it's "an important goal" to get younger Floridians to cut down on vaping, he said in the letter that the goal will not be achieved with the passage of the bill.

Prior to being vetoed by the governor, Senate Bill 810 would have also banned sales of flavored vaping products.

"This veto helps to preserve the rights of adults in Florida to choose a healthier alternative and obviously it also saves about a thousand small businesses," said Robert Lovett, the president of the Florida Smoke Free Association.

Lovett said the organization has supported raising the age, but took issue with a flavor ban on vaping products.

"The issue for us was this was going to create a black market for these products to the extent that all flavors were banned and it was gonna send a lot of adult Floridians who are former smokers who have used vaping products to quit back to cigarettes which we know are incredibly harmful," he said.

The bill would have also impacted businesses selling vaping products. Following Gov. DeSantis veto, Vapor Technology Association (VTA), a nonprofit dedicated to selling vapor products commended the governor for taking action.

VTA's executive director Tony Abboud released the following statement.

"Tonight, Governor DeSantis has shown true leadership and understanding in his decision to veto SB 810. SB 810 was passed by the legislature in March of this year under the mistaken belief that it would raise the age to purchase vapor products to 21 when, in fact, 21 had already been the age to purchase vapor products in Florida since last December 2019.

Governor DeSantis understood that the real purpose of the bill, an adult flavor ban, would have had devastating public health and economic impacts for the state. The governor's decision to veto SB 810 has saved the jobs of over 4,500 Floridians, kept 800 small businesses open and saved the economy $605.6 million in revenues. Most importantly, as Governor DeSantis noted, he is helping to keep Floridians from returning to smoking cigarettes."

"We don’t expect there to be enough time before Jan. 1st for anyone to get a market approval in any state in this nation," said an owner of South Tampa Vape, Michael Cherup.

He said they already enforce youth access in the shop and want to help people quit smoking, but the flavor ban would have caused a hit to business.

"96 to 97 percent of my juice sales are flavors other than tobacco. And yeah I’m gonna lose so much in sales because people don’t want to taste tobacco anymore. That’s why they got off cigarettes," he said.

However, others expressed disappointment with the veto.

"I’m a mother. I have five children. So I’ve seen it not just with my children but their friends and it’s a growing trend and it’s dangerous. We don’t know what’s in these products so we need to make sure it’s out of the hands of our youth," said State Rep. Jackie Toledo.

She said she's focused on moving forward and working with everyone to find a path through.

"We do need to regulate these vape shops. We actually don’t even know how many exist in the state of Florida and what they’re selling in their stores," said Toledo.

Toledo says she plans to revisit legislation next session.

"It will probably be some variation of it. This year had the ban on the flavored vapes and I actually moved out the date of implementation to January so I could give the vape shops time to get the FDA approval. But I don’t think the FDA approval is unreasonable," she said.

The American Lung Association issued this statement following the veto:

"The American Lung Association urges Florida legislators to do more to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use, including the e-cigarette epidemic. As an organization with decades of experience advocating for public policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, we know that the initiatives in SB810 were not enough to address the rates of youth tobacco use in Florida,” stated Ashley Lyerly, the director of advocacy for the Lung Association, in a release.

Earlier this month, the American Lung Association in Florida announced a plan to address youth vaping.

"We know these products are harmful, they are tobacco products, and we want to provide resources for parents and schools and youths themselves to recognize this is an addiction and provide them resources to quit," said Lyerly.

The plan includes a public awareness campaign targeted to parents, including educational resources and conversation starters. It also includes a 'Vape-Free Schools Initiative.' That provides guidance on tobacco use policy, including an alternative to suspension programs for non-compliant students and a voluntary tobacco and vaping cessation program.

Wednesday, data released by the CDC and FDA from the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed in 2020 nearly one in five high school students and 4.7 percent of middle school students reported current e-cigarette use.

A statement from Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, said the survey showed 1.8 million fewer US youth currently using e-cigarettes compared to 2019.

"After two years of disturbing increases in youth e-cigarette use, we are encouraged by the overall significant decline reported in 2020. This is good news; however, the FDA remains very concerned about the 3.6 million U.S. youth who currently use e-cigarettes and we acknowledge there is work that still needs to be done to curb youth use. Youth use of e-cigarettes remains a public health crisis that is affecting children, families, schools and communities, and we will do everything possible to stop it – including new actions we are taking today," he stated.

The agency issued warning letters to three companies it says sell or distribute unauthorized ENDS products, warning them to remove the products from the market.

Below is Gov. DeSantis' letter to the state:

Below is the now-vetoed Senate Bill 810:

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