Since 2011, the use of electronic cigarettes by Florida high school students has increased over 100% as teens continue to experiment with the devices and retailers grapple about whether they fall under the tobacco selling guidelines. Local communities have worked to halt sales of e-cigarettes to underage users through ordinances, but their hands are tied as preemptive tobacco laws in Florida take the side of tobacco and not the side of citizens.
In October 2013, Florida Representatives Ronald “Doc” Renuart (District 17 – St. Johns) and Frank Artiles (District 118 – Miami-Dade) became co-sponsors of two bills that would address electronic nicotine delivery devices. Both bills prohibit giving nicotine dispensing devices to those under 18 under any condition, whether by sale, barter or gift, and prohibit those under 18 years of age from possessing and purchasing the devices. You can read the actual wording of the bill on the link above. Artiles bill HB 169 would apply penalties.
When HB 169 was heard in the House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee, they removed the language “alternative nicotine products” and inserted “nicotine dispensing devices” using a strike-all amendment. In an attempt to close a loophole that would allow the sale of vials of liquid nicotine to minors, Representative Darryl Rouson filed an additional amendment.
Less than 15 hours before the bill was to be heard on March 11 at 12:30 PM, Rep. Renuart filed a strike-all amendment adding the liquid nicotine amendment AND an additional preemptive clause that reads:
569.14 (7): “REGULATION OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS PREEMPTED TO STATE – This part expressly preempts regulation of products and activities, covered by this chapter to the state and supersedes any municipal or county ordinance on the subject.”
By activities does this mean the distribution and selling of nicotine dispensing devices, or does it include activities such as our SWAT clubs which help educate our Florida youth about tobacco?
Tobacco and smoking legislation are already preempted by state law in Florida, meaning no municipality can pass a law with more control than what the state has already set. Uniformity of laws across the state make it easier to administer and govern, but preemption also means local communities have their hands tied when new tobacco products hit the market, and our state cannot react quickly enough to protect our youth.
Contact the Representatives who sit on the committee and voice your concern “that the preemption clause will limit the scope of Florida’s very effective youth tobacco prevention program.” Click here for the Representatives.