Florida governor vetoes bill because of liquid nicotine ban

Veto met with minimal disappointment

FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2019, file photo, electronic cigarette pods are displayed for sale at a shop, in Biddeford, Maine. Vaping giant Juul Labs has donated thousands of dollars to court state attorneys general. But the lobbying strategy may be backfiring. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File) (Robert F. Bukaty, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill to raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 because it would have also banned the sale of flavored liquid nicotine products used in vaping.

The Republican governor said in the veto letter released Tuesday night that federal law already raised the age to buy tobacco to 21, but said that hundreds of thousands of Floridians vape as a lower risk alternative to smoking.

“This legislation would almost assuredly lead more people to resume smoking cigarettes and it would drive others to the hazardous black market,” DeSantis wrote, pointing out lung injury associated with black market products.

He said while it's a worthy goal to reduce vaping among youth, he said that won't be achieved by eliminating legal products for adults. He said it also would be devastating to small businesses that sell vaping products.

The veto came hours after Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a press release warning about the dangers of underage vaping. The statement touted her work to get the bill passed.

In an statement, Moody told Capitol News Service she was disappointed by the governor’s veto.

“The United States and Florida Surgeons General have declared vaping to be an epidemic. As the Attorney General and a mother, I will continue to advocate for legislation and in our courts to protect Florida’s children,” Moody said.

The veto came as a welcome surprise to the vape industry and has been met with lukewarm disappointment from health organizations.

The American Cancer Society had taken a neutral position on the bill, arguing it didn’t go far enough to curb the youth vaping epidemic.

American Cancer Society Vice President of Regional Advocacy Paul Hull said three out of 10 youths in Florida now admit to vaping.

“At the end of the day, this particular bill, we do agree with the governor that it wouldn’t have done much,” Hull said.

Though federal law already raised the age to buy tobacco to 21, the American Cancer Society did note that including the age change in Florida law could have helped with enforcement.

Jonathan Risteen — the owner of Gentleman’s Draw Vape Shop in Edgewood, Florida, who spoke against the legislation during the 2020 session — was pleasantly surprised by the veto.

“We are willing to do a lot of things, but one of those things that we’re not willing to do is take adults' rights away,” Risteen said.

Ironically, both the vape industry and health groups agree the bill missed the ball, by not raising penalties for retailers who sell to underage youth.

“We’ll just go back to the drawing board next year,” Hull said.