Say what you will about Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ approach to public health and safety, he is remarkably consistent. Consistent, that is, in pursuing a set of policies that — again and again — put Floridians’ lives at risk for reasons I fail to comprehend.
In his latest salvo against the health and wellbeing of this state’s residents, Gov. DeSantis issued an inexplicable veto of bipartisan legislation I sponsored along with Rep. Jackie Toldeo in the House that would raise the legal age for tobacco purchases (including e-cigarettes) from 18 to 21 years old and ban flavored nicotine products that have fueled a youth e-cigarette epidemic.
In the midst of a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on hundreds of thousands of Floridian’s lungs, this should be an absolute no brainer, folks.
We all know the dangers of tobacco, to individual health, and to the public health writ large. It is also becoming more clear that smoking and vaping is bad for the lungs and putting people at increased risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19.
We also know that virtually all smokers start the habit before age 21. More than a quarter of Florida high school students have vaped in the last year, according to state data. We know that 18 and 19-year-old smokers often are the suppliers to their younger friends in high school. And we know from experience that raising the drinking age from 18 to 21 drastically reduced underage drinking, as well as the consequences surrounding it (DUI, hospital visits, etc).
Yet here we are. With Gov. DeSantis’ veto pen, Florida will fail to join the many other states that have enacted this important legislation, and as a result, more kids will become addicted to nicotine, and some of them will eventually die from that addiction. This is not an abstraction. You can draw a straight line from addiction to death when it comes to cigarettes and other tobacco products.
It took 20 years to undo the youth cigarette smoking epidemic of the 90s. The Governor now seems so concerned with people smoking, but we know that vaping, which is bad enough on its own, also leads to more youth experimenting with cigarettes. Every year that goes by with inaction against vaping is another step closer to the next generation of addicted youth and us having to take on the associated health care costs attributed to their addiction.
And as I said, DeSantis has been consistent with his public health policy. As our state continues to writhe and suffer in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, our Governor has repeatedly stuck his head in the sand when it comes to taking measures that would have halted the spread of the virus and saved lives.
Our statewide shelter-in-place order came too little, too late. We still don’t have a statewide mask order, and many parts of the state see little mask wearing at all. The Governor’s rush to open bars in June came at the expense of reopening our schools safely. Instead, thousands of families are now forced into the toils of trying to assist their children with virtual learning on platforms that still do not work. And not only has our testing and contact tracing failed to meet the state’s needs, but DeSantis now wants to outsource virtually all COVID testing in Florida.
And as our state suffers under the weight of the DeSantis administration’s neglect of the public health, we could have access to billions in healthcare dollars from the federal government in the form of Medicaid expansion. But Gov. DeSantis, like Rick Scott before him, refuses to expand coverage to those who need it most.
Ron DeSantis is consistent, that much is certain. But his ideological rigidity comes at the cost of people’s lives.
Nick Duran represents Florida House District 112 including parts of Miami-Dade County.
September 11, 2020 at 1:22 pm
James Robert Miles
September 11, 2020 at 2:39 pm
What else would you expect from a Trump butt kisser?
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