Six months after it passed the Legislature, a bill raising the smoking and vaping age to 21 has arrived on Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk Friday.
Lawmakers agreed to hold off on sending proposals to the Governor to give him time to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most bills took effect already, but others kick in next year, like the tobacco and vaping bill (SB 810), or at other times and didn’t need immediate action.
Raising the age to 21 helps the state comply with new federal regulations. And the bill bans all vape flavors other than menthol and tobacco until they receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
However, there was no appetite in the House for an accompanying measure (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.
Republican Sen. David Simmons penned both pieces of legislation.
A mixed bag of Republicans and Democrats dissented as the one bill to gain traction passed 27-9 in the Senate and 99-17 in the House.
Republican Reps. Jackie Toledo and Ray Rodrigues made changes delaying the start date of the age hike three months to the start of 2021, ensuring permitted store employees below 21 years old can sell tobacco and vape products and clarifying that vape product permits don’t carry a $50 fee.
Toledo and Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran carried the bill and companion legislation through the House. They and Simmons believe youth vaping has become an epidemic and a crisis in middle and high schools.
Additionally, foods like tomatoes and potatoes, which contain trace nicotine, were carved out of the bill in a clarification.
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.
Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini said banning those flavors would create a black market for flavored vape liquids. Off-market liquids and vapes have reportedly been tied to vaping-related deaths.
“If you look at the history of this country’s war on drugs, I believe it’s been an epic failure,” he said. “The only historic simile is probably Pickett’s Charge. It was an absolute failure.”