TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House unanimously approved a bill Wednesday barring the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but the legislation still will need approval in the Senate because the House inserted new language Tuesday.
With all 114 representatives supporting the bill, the legislation will move back to the Senate without a provision that kept local governments from imposing their own restrictions on e-cigarette sales.
The provision became a sticking point in a back-and-forth on the amendment in the House on Tuesday, when Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, successfully pushed to remove language that would have required all restrictions on e-cigarette sales to come from Tallahassee.
Several representatives lauded bill sponsor Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who disagreed with Hager’s amendment but sought a compromise that would allow local regulations on nicotine products, but not e-cigarettes. Artiles argued the local regulations would become overwhelming for e-cigarette vendors.
Artiles, House Speaker Will Weatherford and other top House leaders opposed Hager’s amendment, which passed 72-46 with support from Democrats and about 30 Republicans.
The American Lung Association, American Cancer Society and associations representing Florida’s cities and counties supported giving local governments the power to craft e-cigarette regulations.
Heather Youmans, Florida government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said there are 86 local regulations in Florida, most of which govern advertising and product placement, already in place for tobacco products.
“We know that placement and advertising of a product matters, and we know that if a local community sees an issue, they should be able to combat that,” Youmans said.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver doses of nicotine and other chemicals through a vapor. A National Youth Tobacco Survey of middle and high school students showed twice as many used e-cigarettes in 2012 than in 2011.
“If we do not support this legislation this year, we may expect another doubling in the use of these products by our minors,” said Rep. Ronald Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach.
Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, signaled further state regulation of similar tobacco products could come in future years.
“Know that this is just the first stop, just a start, as this new technology is starting to unfold,” Williams said.
Youmans said she expects the measure to move without issue in the coming days through the Senate, which unanimously approved its version of the bill on March 27. The Senate version didn’t include a ban on local regulations.
“I think it’s going to go through pretty quickly,” Youmans said.
The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate e-cigarettes, but it’s expected to propose new oversight in the coming months. The technology has been seen as possibly a safer alternative to cigarettes, but if regulation is too lax, there’s fear e-cigarettes could land in the hands of minors too often.