FL AG Moody wants lawmakers to address the growing problem of teenagers and vaping

Florida Attorney Ashley Moody (from the Florida Channel)

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wants state lawmakers to crack down on vaping among teenagers.

Moody, a Republican Cabinet member who has launched an investigation into more than 20 companies selling vaping devices or e-cigarettes in Florida, says she is concerned that the nicotine-based products are ending up in the hands of children.

“When we discovered and looked at some online marketing techniques and some ads, we realized that this may have been intentional. And I refuse as a mother and as attorney general to sit on my hands and watch while the next generation becomes addicted to nicotine,” Moody said Tuesday at the Associated Press’s legislative planning session.

With a son in elementary school, Moody says the vaping devices are even reaching those children. She notes a recent survey by the state Department of Health shows one in four teens may be using the devices.

“But if you talk to the students one on one, and get them to put their phones down for a moment, they’ll tell you more than that are vaping,” said Moody, who toured schools across the state during the summer.

E-cigarette vaping components are displayed at Smoke and Gift Shop in June in San Francisco. As the technology continues to change, researchers are finding more evidence that the way vaping devices and e-liquids interact could harm consumers. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

She also noted that a majority of the teenagers “have no idea these devices contain nicotine.”

“As I have gone through this process, it has become clear to me that at a minimum, we must have further action by the Legislature to protect our children,” Moody said. “This would not take the place of the (investigative) track that I am responsible for in the attorney general’s office, but it would supplement our efforts to better protect our children.”

“At a minimum, we need to be looking at whether flavors in vaping products should be allowed in the state of Florida. Cotton candy, bubble gum, Captain Crunch are all flavors that are used and studies have shown it is what primarily attracts children to this habit,” she said.

Moody says she wants stronger regulations to make sure the vaping dealers are not selling the devices to children.

Moody also wants to use the existing Tobacco Free Florida program, which runs an anti-smoking campaign, to include messages warning about the impact of vaping among teenagers.

She says there should be an educational component to enforcement efforts that “lets children know and their parents know about the dangers of vaping, especially to juveniles and the developing brain.”

Moody says she is working on legislation that will be considered in the 2020 session, which begins in January.

“I believe the Legislature should be clear: absolutely no targeting of minors in advertising or marketing. There should be an explicit direction from our Legislature to companies preventing them from targeting our minors,” Moody said. “I will continue to aggressively pursue not only the investigation but encourage lawmakers to take affirmative action.”

The Florida Phoenix previously published a Kaiser Health News report on the dangers of vaping here.