By Dr. Barry Hummel, SPECIAL TO THE SUN SENTINEL.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
This is a excerpt, you can find the complete Op Ed piece here: Click Here .