Teens and parents: the Florida Legislature passed vaping regulations. Here’s what to expect

Credit: Vaping360 via Wikimedia Commons

In the waning days of the legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill in hopes of curtailing the current youth vaping epidemic.

One big provision is that young people won’t be able to buy tobacco or nicotine products until they’re 21. The minimum age used to be 18.

Vaping products, such as vape pens, attract young people and are often called electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, which produce an aerosol, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

E-cigarettes are considered less harmful than regular cigarettes but the aerosol can contain harmful substances, such as nicotine, lead and other substances that can cause cancer, according to the CDC.

If Gov. Ron DeSantis signs off on the bill passed by the Legislature, Florida laws will match federal standards on tobacco regulation.

(In December 2019, the Trump administration raised the legal purchasing age of all tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21.)

“Vaping is a harmful substance and the federal government has already increased the age to 21. We are merely complying with that guideline.” said Republican State Rep. Jackie Toledo, one of the sponsors of vaping bills this session. She represents a part of Hillsborough County.

Sen. David Simmons, a Republican who represents Seminole County and parts of Volusia County, sponsored a vaping bill on the Senate side.

The bills became controversial as they progressed in the session. Following several amendments and other changes, here are highlights of the final bill that passed in both the Florida House and Senate.

/The bill classifies tobacco products as products involving “loose tobacco leaves, and products made from tobacco leaves, in whole or in part, and cigarette wrappers, which can be used for smoking, sniffing, or chewing; and any nicotine product or vapor-generating electronic.”

Nicotine products are defined as any product that contains nicotine.

That means all nicotine products will face the same regulation standards as tobacco products, and the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation will issue citations to retailers in violation of Florida Tobacco law, including for selling liquid nicotine products, according to the bill.

/The bill raises the age to purchase tobacco products, including liquid nicotine products, to the age of 21. It does not prohibit young people 18 to 20 from selling tobacco products in a law-abiding place of employment.

/While all tobacco retailers need to be licensed and pay annual fees to sell tobacco products, the bill now offers a limited retail tobacco permit for those interested in selling only liquid nicotine products.

Republican Rep. Ray Rodriguez, representing part of Lee County, pushed the issue, saying, “We are creating a permitting process that will allow them (businesses) to be permitted to only sell the vaping products.”

And, “They will not have to pay a fee that they would have to pay if they were doing tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigars and pipe tobacco.”

/Amendments in the bill lighten the stance on banning flavored vaping products, which was a controversial aspect in the original bill.

Rather than banning all flavors except tobacco and menthol, as the original version proposed, the bill attempts to regulate flavor nicotine products through approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The America Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, abbreviated as ACS CAN,  followed the progress on the bill in the legislative session, stating,  “The Legislature has been proactive in their response to today’s youth tobacco epidemic.”

But, “While we appreciate their efforts, (the bill) will do little to curb youth tobacco use in Florida.”

According to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, 25.6 percent of Florida high school students and 9.1% percent of Florida middle school kids use e-cigarettes, based on 2019 data.