Smoking at 21 and vaping regulation bills stumble in negotiations

Can senators strike a deal with the House?

Legislation changing tobacco laws experienced a hiccup Wednesday when the Senate postponed bills raising the minimum smoking age to 21 and treating vaping products like tobacco products.

Bill sponsor Sen. David Simmons told the chamber floor he awaits negotiations with the House, but that chamber appears unlikely to budge on smoking issues this Session.

“We’re working with the House to get some language that is agreeable,” the Altamonte Springs Republican told Senators.

The primary bill (SB 810) would raise the age for lawfully purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 and prohibit the sale of most flavored nicotine liquids. The second bill (SB 1394) would include e-cigarettes and other vaping products as “tobacco products.”

Both bills would bring Florida regulation in line with new federal guidelines, which raised minimum ages for smoking and vaping to 21 in December. Lawmakers included that provision in the federal defense spending bill, and a week later the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved regulations to enforce the new age limit nationwide.

Before splitting the effort into two bills, Simmons found himself battling two challenges. First, bringing vaping under state regulation with any teeth would require a regulatory fee of $50 as a separate bill requiring two-thirds approval in both chambers of the Legislature.

Secondly, Simmons received backlash from vape shop owners who don’t want to be grouped with tobacco peddlers in state regulations and who fear ensuing taxation won’t stop at the $50 annual fee. Simmons insists that tobacco-like excise taxes would require separate bills and separate two-thirds votes under the Florida Constitution amendment approved in 2018.

House leaders never gave companion legislation (HB 151) by Tampa Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo airtime in committees. But legislation (HB 7089) later filed by Toledo and Miami Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran would similarly add vaping products to nicotine regulations.

Simmons has called youth vaping a crisis and says his bills provide accountability for vape shop workers.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

One comment

  • Jeff Wood

    March 4, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    Simmons’ is a Paid shill from Juul. The House bill would allow for regulation as a separate category from tobacco. It would allow DBPR to enforce age limits on vape shops, but without the flavor ban in Simmons’ bill that would decimate vape shops and hand Florida over to Juul/Altria.

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