Florida leads by example in vaping regulation | Sarasota
Legislation raising the smoking age in Florida to 21 is heading for the governor’s office. It’s hard to believe that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the most controversial public health question was how to regulate e-cigarettes.
In 2019, an epidemic of lung disease and death was attributed to electronic cigarettes. Confusion has abounded because the products had never been linked to such diseases and are being promoted by many public health experts as a safer alternative to smoking. Because electronic cigarettes do not contain or burn tobacco, they are a considerably safer way for smokers to consume nicotine.
What the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called EVALI (lung injury associated with the use of electronic cigarettes or vaping devices) prompted several states to issue executive orders banning e-cigarettes or cigarette flavorings outright. electronic. After an exhaustive investigation, the CDC found that nicotine e-cigarettes were not responsible for EVALI.
EVALI resulted from an existing marijuana ban, with victims inhaling black market THC cartridges containing vitamin E acetate. Nonetheless, the debate over e-cigarettes continued to intensify, with critics claiming the flavors of vape attracted children into nicotine addiction. In response, the Donald Trump administration has raised the federal age of tobacco products to 21 and removed some flavors from the most popular devices on the market until the Food and Drug Administration approves them.
But in Florida, the legislature passed a bill banning e-cigarette flavors anyway. The bill would have killed state vaping stores and denied smokers the most popular alternative to cigarettes. Governor Ron DeSantis, however, listened to Florida vapers and public health experts and vetoed the bill.
“Although originally conceived as a bill to raise the legal buying age for tobacco to 21 (which is redundant as this is already prescribed by federal law), CS / CS / CS SB 810 effectively bans tobacco-free vaping flavors used by hundreds of thousands of Floridians as a reduced-risk alternative to cigarettes, which are more dangerous, ”DeSantis said in its veto message.
The arguments in favor of the governor’s veto only grow stronger. The rate of vaping among young people fell dramatically in 2020, ahead of school closings and lockdowns. The Cochrane Review, the gold standard of evidence-based medicine, published a report concluding that more smokers quit with e-cigarettes than with nicotine gum or patches. A Yale School of Public Health study found that adult vapers who used the type of flavors DeSantis recorded were more likely to quit than those who used tobacco flavors. All electronic cigarettes are now undergoing a review by the FDA, determining whether their benefits outweigh the potential costs. If they fail this test, they will be taken off the market, avoiding any state ban.
Fears that youth vaping could somehow be a gateway to smoking were also considered insufficient. A report from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance shows that the percentage of Florida high school students who smoked at least once in the past month is at an all-time high of 4.8%. Even among young adults who could legally buy cigarettes, the number of those who smoke continues to decline. (See graphic)
While Florida may have made the right choice when it comes to vaping, other states have decided to go the prohibitionist route. Last June, Massachusetts became the first state to implement a ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. The experience is not going well. Massachusetts could lose about $ 120 million from the ban in the first year, according to the Tax Foundation. Cigarette sales in New Hampshire and Rhode Island skyrocketed while the purchase of non-menthol cigarettes jumped 14% in the first six months.
Rhode Island continues to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes while all cigarettes remain on shelves. However, that could change as a former supporter of the ban, Representative Julie Casimiro, introduced a bill to repeal the ban. After listening to vaping store owners, reading vaping research and the CDC’s results on EVALI, Casimiro did this all too rare thing and changed his mind, deciding to promote public health and consumer choice.
Disinformation around vaping continues to plague much of the media, state legislatures, and the general public. In Florida, at least, the administration has refused to be caught up in moral panic for the benefit of small business and better public health.
Guy Bentley is the Director of Consumer Freedom and Adrian Moore is Vice President of Reason Foundation.