Use of electronic cigarettes — vaping — in most indoor workplaces in Florida will be banned as of next week. The change is similar to a long-standing law that prohibits smoking tobacco at work.
Taking effect Monday, the sanction is part of an amendment outlawing both vaping and offshore oil drilling. The Florida Constitution Revision Commission voted to place Amendment 9 on last November’s ballot. Voter approval statewide was 69%; 68% in Escambia County, 62% in Santa Rosa, and 67% in Okaloosa County.
“Back in 2003, Florida voters overwhelmingly an amendment at that time to expand the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, and the workplaces that it covered,” said Laura Corbin with Tobacco Free Florida. “I think that really speaks to the public’s support for health measures like this, and protecting people from exposure to cigarette smoke and now e-air solids as well.”
In light of the surge in vaping among Florida’s youth the new ban – Corbin says this is big.
“In both protecting Floridians from exposure to the second-hand aerosol that e-cigarettes release,” Corbin says. “And then we also know that e-cigarette use in public spaces and indoors can re-normalize smoking and reverse the steady declines that we’ve made in youth cigarette smoking.”
E-cigarette manufacturers claim that their products are intended for audits only. But Corbin says skyrocketing numbers of underage vapers tell a different story.
“In fact, 25% of Florida high school students report vaping, compared to just four percent of adults,” said Corbin. “And we know that youth, as they use these products, are at greater risk of trying traditional tobacco products. So we have a lot at stake.”
As with the tobacco ban, the new ban still allows vaping at private residences and places such as stand-alone bars, designated hotel rooms and retail vape shops. On the other side of the fence, vaping proponents argue that vaping helps people get off cigarettes.
“There’s a difference between e-vapor products and nicotine products, combustible cigarettes; there’s no question that there are two different categories of products,” said Josh Unger, owner of Von Vape in Sarasota. He spoke before the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee in February.
“Our business is helping people quit smoking, or helping people get off cigarettes,” Unger told the panel. “I personally have witnessed hundreds of people in hundreds of stores in the state transition from smoking to vaping, and then to not vaping.”
Unger conceded that nicotine is in many of the products he sells — roughly 30% of his inventory — but it’s not directly derived from tobacco. Vaping products, he adds, are not burned, but rather heated until it becomes an aerosol mist.
“Since vaping was introduced, smokers have seen the levels of smoking [in Florida] decrease from almost 30% to the current level of the low- to mid-teens,” said Unger. “The people in Florida voted for the Amendment 9, and the amendment should be passed as a clean document, specifically to add vapor products to the Clean Indoor Air Act.”
“The [Food and Drug Administration] has not deemed [vaping products] as a cessation device; they’re not an approved method of cessation,” said Tobacco-Free Florida’s Laura Corbin. One new challenge facing anti-smoking and anti-vaping groups, she says, is that tobacco companies are now switching tactics to push vaping, rather than traditional cigarettes.
“JUUL, which is the most popular brand of e-cigarettes among youth, comes in a very sleek design that looks like a USB drive,” Corbin says. “It’s also a reminder that the industry is really looking to youth to be their next ‘replacement smoker.’”
One of Tobacco Free Florida’s weapons against higher smoking rates among youth has been peer pressure. Corbin says the same principle also applies to knocking down vaping rates.
“And one of the messages that they remind their peers is that the tobacco industry — and the vape industry now as well — invest a tremendous amount of money in marketing their products to make appealing to youth.”
Individuals violating the ban on vaping can face a maximum civil penalty of $25, 50 hours of community service, completing a school-approved anti-tobacco “alternative to suspension” program.