TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The vaping industry in Florida is embracing a proposed bill that would regulate the industry in the state. The effort got a big boost in the state legislature Wednesday when it overwhelmingly passed a House subcommittee despite opposition from some leading health organizations.
Republican State Rep. Jackie Toledo from Tampa discussed her proposed legislation that would regulate vape shops. She told the committee that her bill would add state oversight to the vaping industry by requiring permits, allowing the state to issue fines for illegal sales and allowing people harmed by vaping to sue.
“Our nation is facing a unique vaping epidemic,” Toledo told the House Health Market Reform Subcommittee. “Retailers that are only selling vape products are not currently regulated.”
The proposal would put vape shops and retailers under the regulation of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations.
The proposal earned support from people in the vape industry like Chris Dofort who owns Vapor Life Fort Lauderdale.
“I think regulation is a good thing,” he said. “It’s nothing we’re opposed to.”
Dofort said legitimate vape shops follow the law and this legislation would add more legitimacy to their industry.
“We’re not looking to sell to children,” he said. “We’re not looking to sell illicit products. We’re not looking to sell any bootleg products so any regulation that makes the public more comfortable with it would be a success in the industry.”
The vaping industry argues that they should not be regulated in the same way as the tobacco industry.
“We’d like to be separated from tobacco products because we are not tobacco,” said Nick Orlando, Vice President of the Florida Smoke Free Association, a group representing the vape industry. “That is the very thing this industry was created for is to break the chain of addiction to combustible tobacco that kills 1,300 people a day, 480,000 a year.”
But the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society oppose the proposed bill. Mark Landreth, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association told CBS 4 News that the FDA has determined that e-cigarettes are classified the same as tobacco and should be regulated similarly. Plus, he said federal laws are already in place to regulate vaping and this proposal is unnecessary.
“We appreciate what the state’s trying to do,” he said. “We just think they need to follow the federal statute.”
Republican State Rep. Cary Pigman took issue with the opposition and said the state of Florida has the right to regulate businesses.
“All those who are opposed to this bill need to study it more carefully,” he said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Pigman asked Landreth why the group opposes the measure.
“We can require licensure in Florida to enforce laws,” Pigman said. “Is the American Heart Association in favor of that or are they opposed to that?”
“We are in favor of regulating the vape shops, yes,” Landreth replied. “The way this bill is set up to do, it doesn’t do that, sir. In the long run, it’s not gonna make a difference.”
People in the vaping industry say the scare at the end of 2019 about vaping related illnesses and deaths was blown out of proportion and has been debunked. Dofort said federal health officials determined that an additive in illicit vapes that contained cannabis was to blame, not legitimate vapes. Dofort also said that research shows vaping does help people quit their smoking habit.
“It’s been determined at this point to be the most effective way to quit smoking,” Dofort said.
This proposed legislation has a long way to go to make it to Governor’s desk. It still has to pass the full House and reports indicate that the leadership in the State Senate is not inclined to pass the measure.