Florida Bill to Restrict Vape Sales to 23 Big Tobacco Products

Florida vaping legislation regulation

The Florida House has passed a divisive bill that would effectively ban the sale of all but 23 tobacco-flavored vaping products sold by Big Tobacco companies in the state. The legislation, HB 1007, cleared the House on an 83-26 vote, with two Republicans voting against the measure sponsored by Palm City Republican Rep. Toby Overdorf.

Limiting Vape Sales to FDA-Approved Products

While the bill doesn’t explicitly restrict retailers to selling only Logic, NJOY, and Vuse brand vapes, it would prohibit the sale of any vaping products that haven’t received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Out of approximately 26 million products submitted for FDA approval, only 23 owned by RJ Reynolds, Japan Tobacco International, and Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) have been cleared.

Protecting Youth and Consumers

Proponents of the measure, such as Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry, who is sponsoring a similar bill (SB 1006) in the Senate, believe the proposed restrictions will better protect Florida’s youth. The Florida Retail Federation, a strong supporter of the bill, cites data showing that Florida ranks first nationally in sales of illegal vaping products, amounting to a $363 million illicit market in the previous year.

The FDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have long maintained that flavored vape products, including menthols, are more appealing to children. Attorney General Ashley Moody shares this view and recently sued vape company Juul, 35% owned by Altria, for improperly marketing to minors.

Supporters also emphasize that non-FDA-approved vapes are predominantly manufactured in China and could pose greater risks to consumers. A recent national survey revealed that voters are not in favor of imported Chinese vapes.

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Concerns and Criticism

Opponents argue that the bill’s supporters may not have been aware that all FDA-approved vapes also carry a “Made in China” label. As the legislation progressed through committees, vape shop owners from across the Sunshine State warned of potential consequences, including significant retail losses, increased tobacco use relapses, and the emergence of a black market filled with genuinely harmful products.

Nick Orlando, a Clearwater shop owner and President of the pro-vape Florida Smoke Free Association PAC, believes the bill will have a devastating impact on the growing industry in Florida while doing little to improve public health. He suggests that lawmakers instead draft legislation that restricts vape sales to products on the federal list of manufacturers, establishes a permitting fee to fund enforcement of state regulations, and limits the sale of vapes to specialty stores catering to customers 21 and older.

Next Steps

HB 1007 will now proceed to the Senate, where Sen. Perry will represent both this bill and his own (SB 1006). The Senate is expected to vote on either version soon, with the chosen bill set to take effect on October 1.

The passage of this legislation has sparked a heated debate between those who believe it will protect consumers and youth, and those who argue it is excessively restrictive and could lead to unintended consequences. As the bill moves forward, it remains to be seen how it will ultimately impact Florida’s vaping industry, public health, and the potential emergence of a black market.

Vape Shop Owners Fear Business Closures

As Florida Senate Bill 1006 and its House counterpart, Bill 1007, inch closer to a floor vote, vape shop owners across the state are growing increasingly concerned about the potential impact on their businesses. The proposed legislation would restrict all vape shops to carry only FDA-approved products, which some owners believe could force them to shut down.

Nick Orlando, owner of four stores, including Vapors Depot in Largo, and President of the Florida Smoke Free Association, fears the bills will have a devastating impact on shop owners.

“Over 10,000 mom and pop businesses would shut down. Over 50,000 Floridians would lose their jobs and we would have a huge gap in our economy of $1.2 billion,” Orlando stated.

He emphasizes that the FDA has been extremely stringent in approving products, resulting in the denial of market orders for 99% of the companies that have been helping people quit combustible tobacco for years. If the bill passes, these companies will no longer be able to sell their products.

Orlando has been actively engaging with lawmakers at the state capital, attempting to reach a compromise that would allow vape shop owners to continue operating while addressing the concerns raised by the legislation.

Matthew Ma