Legislation to raise the smoking and vaping age to 21 heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk after Senators approved the House’s changes to their proposal.
House members approved a version Wednesday evening punting the start date of the age hike three months to the start of next year. A mixed bag of Republicans and Democrats dissented as it passed 27-9 in the Senate and 99-17 in the House.
The House language also ensures permitted store employees below 21 years old can sell tobacco and vape products and clarifies that vape product permits don’t carry a $50 fee, an original intent of the bill. Additionally, foods like tomatoes and potatoes, which contain trace nicotine, were carved out of the bill.
Reps. Jackie Toledo and Nicholas Duran carried the bill (SB 810) through the House. They and Simmons believe youth vaping has become an epidemic and a crisis in middle and high schools.
Raising the age to 21 helps the state comply with new federal regulations. And the bill bans all vape flavors but menthol and nicotine until they receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
But there was no appetite for an accompanying measure by Simmons (SB 1394) to tag vape products licenses with the $50 fee. Floridians in 2018 passed a constitutional amendment that the Legislature needs a two-thirds vote to raise taxes and fees.
Like on Wednesday, references in the existing statute to third degree misdemeanors, which do not exist in Florida, cased a brief moment of contention. A drafting oversight left that language in, and lawmakers didn’t want to risk the bill’s survival on an additional amendment to fix it when it hasn’t caused problems before.
Senators voted 34-4 last week to send the primary bill to the House, with Republican Sens. Aaron Bean and Jeff Brandes and Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson — the Minority Leader — and Linda Stewart casting the dissenting votes. But Thursday, Democratic Sens. Lauren Book, Randolph Bracy and Jason Pizzo and Republicans Sens. George Gainer and Joe Gruters joined the four.
Bracy, who said he accidentally voted yes the first time around, called the measure a terrible bill.
“It will destroy an entire industry that actually helps people as a way to decrease the amount of nicotine they use,” he said.