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Last Chance in Florida!

Last Chance in Florida: Tell Gov. DeSantis to Veto the Flavor Ban!

March 16, 2020 by Jim McDonald

The Florida legislature passed a flavor ban late last week, and now vapers and vape businesses are pulling out all the stops to convince Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the bill. There are calls to action from CASAA (below) and the Florida Smoke Free Association, urging vapers and their families and friends to email and call DeSantis, and engage him on social media.

If DeSantis signs SB 810 into law, it will ban sales of all vaping products, including bottled e-liquid, in flavors other than tobacco and menthol. There is a clause that allows sales of products that receive PMTA approval from the FDA—but there are currently no FDA-approved vaping products. The bill also imposes restrictions on online sales, bans vaping within 1,000 feet of a school, and changes the legal age to buy tobacco and vaping products in Florida to 21.

CASAA’s call to action (linked below) makes it easy for Florida residents to email the governor today. The Florida Smoke Free Association call to action also urges residents to call the governor (850-488-7146), and connect with him on social media. FSFA has good talking points to use when urging DeSantis to veto the flavor ban.

Florida has more than 900,000 vapers, according to Paul Blair of Americans for Tax Reform. A concerted campaign to convince Gov. DeSantis to veto the flavor ban could work. The question is whether vapers can be mobilized quickly enough to do it—especially in the atmosphere of fear and confusion caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

In addition to denying ex-smokers the products that work to keep them from smoking, the law will destroy hundreds of vape shops and other Florida vaping businesses. According to the Vapor Technology Association, the vaping industry employs more than 5,000 Florida residents, and another 5,000-plus jobs depend on the industry. The vaping trade group says that shutting down the state’s vape businesses would have nearly $1.5 billion in economic impact to the state.

Shutting down small businesses would leave empty storefronts throughout the state, and kill thousands of jobs, just as the national economy heads into a recession caused by the impacts of the virus. DeSantis is a conservative Republican, and a major supporter of President Trump. He must carefully consider what this reckless bill will do to his state—and he needs to be reminded in thousands of messages from Florida voters.

Last month, DeSantis indicated he might not support a bill that restricts flavors beyond what the FDA itself has done. The federal agency recently announced it would change its enforcement priorities to ban sales of prefilled cartridge- and pod-based vaping products in flavors other than tobacco and menthol. The bill DeSantis is considering now certainly goes far beyond the FDA’s action.

“The federal government’s doing stuff but I don’t think we need to do anything beyond what’s been done there,” DeSantis said. “Sometimes I think we maybe get a little ahead of where the science may be on this. So we’ll see. But I don’t have any plans to ask for any new restrictions on vaping.”

The governor hasn’t indicated whether he has changed his mind. SB 810 passed the Florida House by a vote of 99-17, and the Senate 27-9. SB 810 was originally introduced by Republicans in both houses, and received support from members of both parties. It is supported by the usual array of anti-vaping groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and American Cancer Society.

Nothing but a loud grassroots response is likely to convince the governor that he should oppose a popular bill that passed with bipartisan support. If vapers can’t mobilize to convince a conservative Republican to stop a bill that will shut down hundreds of small businesses, what political strength do they really have?