After President Donald Trump received backlash from a group of bipartisan lawmakers for his abrupt decision in November to back off from a proposed ban on flavored e-cigarettes, his political ally Gov. Ron DeSantis seems hesitant on a ban as well.
“I think the results so far have been [that] these are kind of bad products,” DeSantis told reporters following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting at the Capitol.
“But I just think you’ve got to be careful, because you can sit there and say you’re not going to allow this flavor or that, but people will react with their behavior accordingly. I want to do it in a way that’s actually going to lead to as good of outcomes as we can.”
In response to a reporter’s question, the Republican governor addressed the youth vaping trend affecting more than 5 million teenagers, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As health officials continue to investigate vaping-related illnesses and deaths, DeSantis said he wants to wait on the results. The Florida Phoenix previously reported one death in Florida, per the Florida Health Department.
“What I want to do is wait to see what the CDC says about some of the most recent health problems that we’ve seen,” DeSantis said. “You have people that have died because of some of this. That’s not really been the case for most of the time vaping’s been around. This has been around for several years now. I know it’s gotten more popular.”
That deaths related to vaping might be linked to the “bootleg stuff containing THC, and all this other stuff in there,” DeSantis said.
“The problem is, if you ban the normal stuff in the store, that could push more people into those dangerous things,” DeSantis warned.
He also opined that vaping businesses should be held accountable for the sale of e-cigarettes to underaged patrons, with strict consequences.
DeSantis said: “One thing we may consider doing, regardless of the CDC, particularly with underaged [vapers] is making sure the shops know that their business licenses are on the line if they’re going to allow this stuff to be sold to people who are underage. And so we’re looking at ways to do that, but that’s a proposal I think that makes a lot of sense. Because, regardless of what you think about the vaping stuff, clearly … I think parents don’t want their teenaged kids doing this when they’re 15, 16 years old.”
He appeared sympathetic to allowing sales to people age 18 and up, although he noted that he hasn’t taken a position yet on that score.
“As somebody who’s a veteran, when you’re in Iraq and places like that, you’ve got a 19-year-old Marine, they may want to smoke a cigarette or something, and to tell them, ‘We’re going to send you out, you can vote, you can die for the country, but you can’t just do that’ – that creates a little bit of an issue there.”
The Florida Phoenix reached out to lawmakers of both parties who have filed bills that would prohibit the sale of flavored nicotine products but didn’t get a response.
Two bills have been filed in the Florida Legislature related to the prohibition of flavored liquid nicotine products, intended to combat youth vaping: HB 151, filed by State Reps. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican, and Nicholas Duran, a Democrat from-Miami; and SB 694, filed by Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican.
Mayfield and other state officials believe that vaping retailers have used aggressive marketing of vaping flavors to bait kids.
Attorney General Ashley Moody shares those sentiments, publicly expressing her distaste for vaping retailers’ marketing efforts, which she believes offers a palpable target towards the youth.
“Vaping and e-cigarette use among kids has reached epidemic levels,” Mayfield said in a written statement. “Vaping companies are targeting our youth by using flavors like cotton candy, mango, and gummy bear. Now is the time to take action to protect kids from becoming addicted to nicotine.”
Florida Phoenix Deputy Editor Michael Moline contributed to this report.