A voter-approved ban on electronic smoking devices in workplaces is moving forward in the Senate, without a proposal by anti-smoking advocates to redefine vaping devices as tobacco products.
The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee last week backed a bill that would carry out the part of Amendment Nine that bans vaping in some indoor locations. The proposal, bundled by the Constitution Revision Commission with a prohibition on drilling for gas and oil in state coastal waters, gained 69 percent voter approval.
Calls for amending the bill to add the tobacco definition are coming from a number of anti-smoking groups.
“This, we believe, would provide clear authority for the comprehensive statewide tobacco education and use prevention program around the use of electronic smoking devices,” said Aimee Diaz Lyon with the American Lung Association. “So Mr. Chairman, we would just ask to be able to work with you and the committee as this bill moves along in the process on some of these technical issues.”
The measure mirrors a longstanding ban on smoking tobacco in indoor workplaces and would add vaping to a state law that bars people under age 18 from smoking tobacco within 1,000-feet of schools.
“It’ll lead to confusion; probably more lawsuits relating to the determination of what is and what isn’t smoking and vaping,” said Mark Landreth with the American Heart Association, who also told the panel that they need to get a handle on the terminology surrounding the issue.
“Truthfully, we really shouldn’t be using the word ‘vaping’ because that’s a tobacco industry term that’s been popularized in current usage,” said Landreth. “It’s the act of smoking an e-cigarette, and it falsely describes what is emitted from these devices.”
Anti-smoking advocates argue that vaping materials are already regulated the same as tobacco by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that defining devices as tobacco products by the state would help Tobacco Free Florida’s educational efforts.
“It’s hard to determine what’s in each e-cigarette that we’re using because there’s [sic] really no regulations or anything about them,” said Matt Jordan with the American Cancer Society. “With a traditional cigarette, we know exactly what’s in a cigarette, right? Because they’re heavily regulated, [and] we know what they look like.”
“There isn’t enough research out to show that the chemicals in the aerosol aren’t damaging,” Jordan told the committee. “There isn’t enough research out to show that they don’t cause cancer. So, I mean they used to let you smoke on planes, right?”
“They used to let pregnant women smoke. So, just because something is currently the status quo doesn’t mean that it’s ok. We want to make sure we are keeping Floridians healthy.”
As with the tobacco law, e-cigarette use wouldn’t be restricted in private residences, stand-alone bars, designated hotel rooms, and designated smoking rooms at airports.
However, the measure would give local governments the ability to impose more-restrictive regulations on vaping. That concerns Sen. Randolph Bracey (D-Orlando), who says many vape as a way to quit tobacco.
“They may start to use the juice that has nicotine in it but then, a lot of people who use it get to the point where they eliminate it altogether,” Bracey said. “Then they’re just basically smoking a juice – a flavored juice.”
After the hearing, Committee Chairman Wilton Simpson called the argument to add tobacco to the vaping bill language a bit of an overreach.
“The vast majority see the health benefits of stopping smoking, and I think vaping is something that is clearly been a part of that effort,” Simpson said. “It’s something we’ll look at and debate, but I think we’re going to try to keep a clean bill [no amendments] as we go through the process.”
Under Florida law, only the state can regulate smoking tobacco. The committee did not amend the measure to include e-cigarettes.
The bill does not have a companion bill in the House.