TALLAHASSEE - A measure to implement a voter-approved workplace ban on electronic smoking devices cleared its last Senate committee stop and a similar proposal started moving in the House on Wednesday. But both bills lack the language pushed by anti-smoking advocates that would redefine vaping devices as tobacco products.
Hours after the Senate Rules Committee voted to support the ban (SB 7012), the House Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee approved a similar measure (HB 7027). Both proposals are designed to carry out a a prohibition on vaping in indoor workplaces included in a constitutional amendment approved in November. Vaping advocates, who called their devices a “life-changer” that helped long-time smokers quit using tobacco, pleaded with both committees not to add language that would define vaping devices as tobacco products.
Nick Orlando, vice president of Florida Smoke Free Association, argued such a definition would “limit the access to this technology.”
According to its website, the association’s goal is to support and protect the state’s vaping industry. But Matt Jordan, government relations director for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, argued that redefining “vaping” as “smoking” would aid efforts to curtail a growing “youth health epidemic” involving e-cigarettes. The change would also help Tobacco Free Florida’s educational efforts.
“Thirty-eight percent of youth in Florida have tried e-cigarettes and 25-percent of current high school students are using e-cigarettes,” Jordan said. “Those are not people who have been smoking for 20 years, three packs a day.”
The Senate proposal is now headed to the floor for a full vote, and the House measure has one more committee stop. The measures, which mirror a longstanding ban on smoking tobacco in indoor workplaces, would add vaping to a state law that bars people under age 18 from smoking tobacco within 1,000 feet of schools.
The proposal would allow people to use e-cigarettes and other devices inside “vapor-generating electronic device” retailers and “retail vape shops.” As with the tobacco law, e-cigarette use wouldn’t be restricted in private residences, stand-alone bars, designated hotel rooms, retail tobacco shops, facilities run by membership associations, facilities where medical and scientific research is conducted and designated smoking rooms at airports. However, the measure would give local governments the ability to impose more restrictive regulations on vaping. Under Florida law, only the state can regulate smoking tobacco.