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Bill To Cut Down On Teen Vaping Falters In Florida House

The legislature is working to implement a constitutional amendment that bans vaping in indoor workplaces. But another vaping proposal appears dead for this session.

A House committee this week shot down a bill that would have changed the definition of “tobacco products” to include nicotine products and devices that dispense them.

“In the last few years according to the FDA, electronic nicotine delivery systems has become an epidemic with youth," bill sponsor Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola) told the committee. "One in 4 seniors in high school have been using it, and one in 10 youth in middle school have been using it.”

The bill would require businesses that sell these products to pay a small fee and get a permit from the state -- to be a tobacco dealer. These products would have to be sold face-to-face and not through a vending machine in most cases.

“Why does the state of Florida need to get involved in the marketplace on this issue?” Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) asked Hill.

"The reason, Rep. Fischer, is because we’re seeing this increased usage of nicotine electronic delivery systems by our children," Hill said. "We know that nicotine has a negative effect on our youth, especially those under the age of 18; that it can affect their brain development and also has a tendency to make them become dependent on nicotine.”

It’s already illegal in Florida for those under age 18 to buy or possess tobacco products, like regular cigarettes. This bill would add vaping devices to that group, even if the device doesn’t contain nicotine.

42-year-old Albert Harper from Clearwater spoke against the bill during public testimony.

“It’s our death, the consumer, by either tax, black market it would cause, or dangerous DIY methods," Harper said. "Then you open the door for big tobacco to come in and monopolize the entire thing.”

Harper is a veteran who runs social media pages dedicated to educating consumers about vaping.  He says the bill will devastate the average consumer’s accessibility to tobacco-reduction products like e-cigarettes.

“It would require reputable vaping businesses to have a tobacco licensing...although there’s no tobacco in a vaping product, and only some nicotine in some e-liquid. Not all e-liquid has nicotine in it," Harper said. "The same businesses that helped me, my wife, my nephew, and a lot of my family members to not become part of that death statistic from cigarettes - you would be wiping these people out.”

Like most of the speakers, Rep. John Cortes (D-Kissimmee) opposed the bill. He wants more emphasis on regulating vaping devices.

“I had a teacher come to my office and talk to me about the middle school kids and the high school kids using those vapor products to put other stuff in them," Cortes said. "So I think we should be focusing on the product that they use and see what we can do with that.”

Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D-Jacksonville) was the only speaker to say she supports the proposal.

“This is not a crazy bill. The idea is not crazy," Daniels said. "Being on the streets in contact with young people, you know, we don’t know what they’re putting in those pipes, and we can’t control that. But I’m saying this – this is not crazy but common sense.”

Daniels delivered one of three yes votes to eight no votes in the House Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. That halts momentum for the bill in the House, and the Senate version is not scheduled for any committee hearings.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.