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Vaping ban ‘implementing bill’ moves forward in House

Oil drilling is not affected.

The bill implementing a ban on indoor vaping passed its first committee vote — and no, it didn’t address oil drilling.

But lawmakers also left until another day any questions whether e-cigarettes should be reclassified as tobacco products, the same as cigars.

State Rep. Mike Beltran, a Valrico Republican, presented the legislation (PCB HQS 19-02) to the House Health Quality Subcommittee. The bill adds prohibitions on the use of e-cigarettes in all the places where the Florida Clean Indoor Act already bans combustible tobacco.

“Vaping” refers to inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The change would treat vaping “parallel” to smoking indoors, Beltran said.

Voters approved Amendment 9, one of multiple ‘bundled’ amendments proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission, by a 69 percent margin in November.

While nobody spoke against the legislation, health organizations did tell lawmakers to use the legislation to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products, as the federal government has already done.

Officials from the American Heart Association and American Lung Association testified nearly all cartridges used in electronic cigarettes contain nicotine. They also asking that terms like “vaping” not be used in any official law, dismissed the term as industry propaganda.

Onjewel Smith of the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, said unless a provider can prove a product contains no nicotine, it should be treated on par with cigarettes.

She said the change simply modernizes Florida law to include a form of smoking where technology did not yet exist when voters first banned indoor smoking in 2002.

But Nick Orlando, vice president of the Florida Smoke Free Association, said the products have helped many smokers kick their own habit.

“Vaping doesn’t cause cancer,” he said. “We respectfully ask you to keep the bill as written.”

An e-cigarette vendor testified he’d kicked a 20-year habit with the advent of vaping. He testified nicotine doesn’t kill people, smoking does.

Ultimately, lawmakers did not amend language in the bill at the subcommittee level.

The bundling nature of Amendment 9, though, did come up, if only in jest. Voters supporting the ballot measure also approved a ban on offshore drilling in Florida waters.

“Why is there nothing about prohibiting oil drilling in places where indoor smoking is already banned,” asked Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat.

Beltran explained that while Amendment 9 required legislation to extend a smoking ban to cover e-cigarettes, the ban on drilling self-implemented.

“Sorry,” Guillermo Smith said. “I was confused. I thought these were related issues.”

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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