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Shame on DeSantis for Vetoing New Tobacco Age Limit | Opinion

Shame on DeSantis for Vetoing New Tobacco Age Limit | Opinion

By BARRY HUMMEL

SPECIAL TO THE SUN SENTINEL | SEP 14, 2020 

On Sept. 9, those of us who are working to reduce youth nicotine addiction in our community learned that Gov. DeSantis had vetoed SB 810, Florida legislation designed to reduce youth access and exposure to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. This public health legislation was sponsored by state Sen. David Simmons, R-Longwood, and state representatives Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, and Nicholas Duran, D- Miami. The legislation was also supported by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

You may be wondering what was so controversial in this bipartisan legislation the governor felt compelled to stop the law from being implemented?

As passed by both houses of the Florida Legislature, the legislation would have done the following:

  • Raise the age for tobacco sales and purchase to 21, making Florida law consistent with current federal law.
  • Classify vaping products and e-liquids as tobacco products, making Florida law consistent with the current federal law.
  • Ban the sale of any flavored products in Florida that were banned by the FDA — again, making Florida law consistent with federal
  • Require free-standing vape retailers to obtain a retail license through the Florida Division of Business and Professional Regulation. The only difference here is that vape retailers would get that license free of charge, instead of paying the $50 fee required by every other tobacco retailer in the

To be fair, it might seem redundant for Florida to pass law to simply restate current federal law. For example, if the age to buy and sell tobacco is 21 nationally, it is 21 in Florida by default.

The answer lies in the enforcement of the rules. The federal law is enforced by the FDA and federal law enforcement agencies. Those agencies need to travel from Washington, D.C., to conduct compliance checks in our communities and ensure that tobacco retailers are not illegally selling products to our children and teens. However, without a state law, the Florida ABT and our local sheriffs cannot conduct similar compliance checks, which reduces the frequency of those compliance checks. In addition, the lack of a licensing system for vape retailers means that they can hide in the shadows, as Florida will not have a comprehensive list of just where these vape retailers are operating.

Poor enforcement of our current state rules, including the marketing of kid-friendly flavors targeting youth, has led to an epidemic of vaping and nicotine addiction among Florida’s teens. Currently, over 25% of Florida’s high school students vape, while less than 5% of the same group currently uses cigarettes, cigars, spit tobacco or hookah.

In his comments regarding his veto, DeSantis did not address this youth epidemic. Instead, he seemed more

concerned that “this legislation would almost assuredly lead more people to resume smoking cigarettes and it would drive others to the hazardous black market.” That is a cop-out. That is the same argument as “we shouldn’t have speed limits because people are going to speed.” I understand that people might break the law. By definition, they are criminals. That does not mean we should not pass rules to protect our citizens from traffic fatalities — or rules to protect our teens from the predatory practices of an industry that exists only to make a profit on the backs of addicts.

There is a silver lining in this veto. The Tobacco Control Act of 2009 allows local communities to regulate the time, place and manner of tobacco sales and marketing. Every municipality in Broward County can pass their own Tobacco Retail License, raise the age to 21, ban the sale of any-and-all flavored tobacco products including vaping devices and e-liquids, and enforce those rules locally. Alachua County did all those things, charging a fee for the local license that offsets the cost of enforcement.

Our kids deserved better from our governor. Since the state has abdicated its responsibility with regards to protecting our youth from the vaping industry, it is time for local governments to step up and hold these retailers responsible.

Dr. Barry Hummel is the Vice Chair of Tobacco Free Partnership of Broward County.

Tobacco Retail License

Tobacco Retail Licensing: An Essential Tool to Reduce Youth Usage and Foster Health Equity

While cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death with tobacco products killing half a million Americans each year, most states still fail to undertake a comprehensive approach to enforce the new minimum legal sales age of 21. If laws are not enforced and retailers don’t face a threat to lose their ability to sell tobacco products, then they are not inspired to comply – furthering the ongoing risk of kids becoming lifelong tobacco users and addicted to nicotine.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is empowered to enforce federal tobacco sales laws but has historically failed to do so. Therefore, it has always been up to local authorities to require local retailers to abide by youth protection laws. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over half the states either do not require a license to sell e-cigarettes and other tobacco products or they don’t have a comprehensive licensing program covering all products. This unfortunately does not take into account the number of states that are considered to have a comprehensive Tobacco Retail License (TRL) with fees too low to adequately fund a compliance program or include a model penalty structure to encourage retailer compliance to MLSA laws.


Image credit: CDC

About this map

License required to sell e-cigarettes or other tobacco products

License required to sell tobacco products other than e-cigarettes

No license required

Tobacco Retail Licensing (TRL) has become an essential tool in both protecting kids from irresponsible or unscrupulous retailers, and in leveling the playing field for those retailers who do abide by the rules. TRL reduces initiation to nicotine and tobacco through improved compliance with Minimum Legal Sales Age (MLSA) and other important tobacco sales regulations. And more importantly, it is a proven effective enforcement program that is at no cost to the taxpayer if licensing fees are structured to cover all costs of administering the license.

TRL is a vital regulatory tool that:

  • enables localities to monitor tobacco sales, fund compliance efforts, and create effective penalty and suspension structures for repeated violations
  • closes the gap in tobacco regulation that was left open by both the federal and state Tobacco 21 laws
  • allows a municipality or state to regulate location, density, and type(s) of tobacco retailers permitted to operate in their jurisdiction
  • aide in implementing other provisions such as flavored product restrictions, prohibiting product discounts, creating tobacco-free pharmacies, and enforcing mail-order/internet delivery and point-of-sale restrictions

TRL not only protects youth, it also helps protect disadvantaged persons and communities – including people with low incomes, people of color, and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), who are more likely to experience a range of health problems related to the use of tobacco. The tobacco industry promotes its products more within certain communities; as a result, rates of tobacco use and related health problems are much higher for these communities compared to the general population. Further, those living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods are exposed to more tobacco retailers, more advertising, and steeper product discounts. This means we need to decrease the influence of the tobacco industry and put health for all persons over profit.  

See attached for:

  • TRL Best Practices Guide and End Notes
  • Sample Ordinances and Topics in Tobacco Retail Licensing
  • Additional Tobacco Retail Licensing Information and Resources

 

Tobacco Retail Licensing: An Essential Tool to Reduce Youth Usage and Foster Health Equity – A Guide to Best Practices in Tobacco Retail Licensing (TRL) was authored by the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation and does not represent the views or opinions of the organizations referenced in this document.

Florida Governor DeSantis Vetoes Tobacco 21 Bill

Statement from Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation President Rob Crane, MD 

Governor DeSantis’ veto of the Tobacco 21 and Vaping Flavors bill reflects a disheartening refusal to acknowledge the magnitude of the teen vaping epidemic that threatens to addict hundreds of thousands of Florida kids. Unfortunately, the Governor has listened to vape dealers rather than worried Florida parents. The flawed rationale Governor DeSantis gave for his veto is evidence he is choosing to ignore the science on e-cigarettes. Although SB 810 fell far short of being a model Tobacco 21 bill, it would have brought thousands of vape shops and other sellers of e-cigarette products into the current statewide tobacco retail licensing program and required age verification protocols that don’t exist in Florida.

In accordance with the bipartisan federal law signed by President Trump last December, states continue to pass Tobacco 21 legislation: a total of 33 states, including 14 in 2020, have raised the legal sales age to 21 to ensure the federal age will be uniformly enforced. With this veto, Florida faces a potential loss of federal dollars if the state does not meet a specific threshold of retailer violations.

We thank the bill sponsors and Attorney General Ashley Moody for their continued commitment to the protections the Governor failed to put in place, and we can only hope next year’s legislature will take a firmer stand in favor of Florida kids.

Exploitation of the COVID-19 pandemic by e-cigarette marketers

Introduction

Over the last decade, a wide variety of e-cigarette advertisements have claimed superior healthfulness compared with cigarettes.1 Recently, we recognised a novel form of health reassurance advertising, promotion of e-cigarettes via COVID-19 pandemic themes. This led us to systematically explore COVID-19 marketing of e-cigarette brands and vape stores on their websites and Instagram accounts. We have collected over 300 COVID-19 themed e-cigarette promotional images and posted them to our online repository (tobacco.stanford.edu/COVID-19).2 These images represent 21 e-cigarette brands and 41 online vaping stores that vend multiple brands. The COVID-19 messaging in these advertisements took several forms.

As essential supplies became scarce in stores, e-cigarette brands offered these much-needed supplies, including masks, toilet paper rolls and hand sanitisers, as gifts contingent on the purchase of vaping products (figure 1). Some brands (eg, Podsalt, BLVK and One Drop Vape) offered free hand sanitiser with the purchase of any of its products. Podsalt described its sanitiser as ‘WHO recommended’ and claimed that it ‘kills 99.9% of bacteria’.3 VaporDNA offered two strengths of CBD-enriched hand sanitisers (50 mg and 200 mg), while Vape Craft offered the option of sanitiser with or without CBD.4 5 The British nicotine liquid manufacturer MyVapery/Xyfil claimed that it has transformed 80% of its production capacity to produce 50 000 alcohol-based hand sanitisers per day.6 The brand created a website (https://www.handsanitising.com/) and Instagram page (@handsanitising) to market its brand of hand sanitiser.7

Click here to read more.

Evaluating how licensing-law strategies will impact disparities in tobacco retailer density: a simulation in Ohio