State of Florida curtails vape sales under new legislation

by | Apr 29, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to regulate nicotine products, particularly vapes, by requiring registration and proof of FDA compliance, establishing an online directory for permissible sales, and addressing the extensive illegal vape market targeting youth in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday authorized legislation that regulates nicotine products amid rising concerns over illegal and illicit sales in Florida.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Toby Oberdorf, aims to curb the widespread distribution of unregulated vaping products, which he identified as a major challenge for the state during House committee discussions.

Florida reportedly saw more than $363 million worth of illegal vape products sold last year, with distributors disproportionately targeting youths with enticing designs and flavors. Under the legislation, these products would require registration and proof of compliance with FDA regulations.

The bill additionally mandates the creation of an online directory by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). Retailers and wholesalers would be required to sell only products listed in this directory in order to ensure adherence to federal guidelines. Devices included in this directory are primarily single-use or disposable electronic cigarettes, or those utilizing sealed, prefilled cartridges.

“Florida has the dubious distinction of being the number one state in the country for illegal and illicit vape products,” said Oberdorf. “[The] Florida Retail Federation estimates that more than $363 million worth of illegal vape products were sold in Florida last year, most of which were marketed and designed to hook kids with bright colors, candy flavors, etc.”

Through deliberations, the bill faced opposition from various industry stakeholders, with vape shop owners, company representatives, and members of vaping associations expressing concerns that the bill could negatively impact small businesses and lead to a black market for vapes.

Critics also questioned the efficiency of the FDA’s Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA) process, labeling it arbitrary and capricious. There were further apprehensions that the bill might unintentionally impose a flavor ban, a measure previously vetoed by DeSantis in 2020.

“The passage of this law sets a dangerous precedent by giving complete power to the Attorney General, whose original intention was to remove all flavored vaping products from the Florida market, to pick winners and losers based on ambiguous and subjective standards; a power which, if not wielded properly will serve up the independent Florida vapor industry on a platter to Big Tobacco, imperiling the freedoms that are so important to Floridians,” the Vapor Technology Association said on Monday.

Despite the opposition, Juul, an industry leader in the vape market, urged lawmakers in an open letter to endorse the bill in response to rising sales of illegal vaping products. In the transmission, the company stated that it “is on a mission to transition the world’s billion adult smokers away from combustible cigarettes, eliminate their use, and combat underage usage of our products.”

The company recently agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits by dozens of states and has also agreed to compensate a number of Florida school districts after they filed legal claims against the vape maker for not taking adequate steps to protect students.

The letter, penned by JUUL Labs’ Regional Director for State Government Affairs, Jennifer Cunningham, made clear that the company wants a better-regulated market, but also shed light on the company’s efforts to combat underage usage of its products. Cunningham wrote that those measures include supporting “Tobacco 21” laws to raise the legal age for tobacco product sales to 21, restricting vaping flavors to tobacco and menthol, limiting product purchases per transaction, and promoting retail partner compliance through ID checking and technology advancements.


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