Bills currently in the Florida Senate:
SB 810: Artificially categorizes vaping as tobacco product which will increase chances of future taxation and flavor restrictions. Requires retailers, distributors and manufacturers to get a tobacco license in their business category to operate legally in Florida, receiving license is not guaranteed. This gives the state the power to arbitrarily and permanently shut down vape shops. This bill also raises the age to purchase tobacco to 21, which has already been done on a federal level. Additionally, this bill will ban online sales to the state of Florida.

SB 1394: Adds a 25% wholesale tax on vapor products, as well as a 60% tax paid by the consumer at time of sale. Cigarettes, cigars, and other "real" tobacco products are excluded from this bill. This 85% tax will vastly increase the cost of vaping, making it a less attractive alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes.

SB 694: Makes cigarette vending machines illegal, as well as bans the sale of all flavored eliquids.

SB 1638: Bans the sale or transfer (including a gift) of flavored eliquid.

Bills currently in the Florida House:
HB 151: Bans the sale of flavored eliquid and raises the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 (again, already handled on a federal level).

HB 1037: 60% tax on the sale of all vapor products. This is the house companion bill to SB 1394.

We are urging you to contact your elected officials and share your story with them. Tell your representatives how you switched from smoking to vaping and how it has improved your life. Let them know that anything that can be done to encourage people still smoking to switch to vaping should be done. This includes keeping the cost of vaping lower than smoking by not applying sin taxes. Additionally, let your representatives know the importance of flavored eliquid. What flavor did you quit with? What flavors do you enjoy now? Do you have any desire to vape only tobacco flavors going forward? How would that affect your ability to stay away from cigarettes? As always, please be courteous, respectful, and remember to say thank you!

Some talking points from CASAA:
  • Share your story with officials about switching to vapor products instead of continuing to smoke. (Be sure to mention any health changes you’ve experienced.)
  • Share your experience with switching to vapor products. If affordability compared to continuing to smoke was a motivating factor for trying vaping or other smoke-free products, be sure to include that in your comments. Conversely, if the already high initial cost of these products delayed your initial purchase, highlight this instead. Be sure to include any changes in your health that you’ve experienced as a result of switching to safer nicotine or tobacco products.
  • Taxes on traditional cigarettes are intended to discourage use. But, e-cigarettes and other smoke-free tobacco products are estimated to be 98 – 99% less harmful than smoking, discouraging use is counter to the goals of reducing smoking rates.
  • Other governments are taking exactly the opposite approach. Public Health England (the government public health agency) recently explicitly endorsed a policy of encouraging people who smoke to switch to e-cigarettes and vapor products (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-cigarettes-an-evidence-update).
  • Sin taxes are regressive. People who smoke and those who switch to vaping and other smoke-free alternatives are disproportionately poor and low income people. Sin taxes place unnecessary burdens on an already financially challenged group. To make matters worse, people in the low-income bracket are less likely to be insured and lack access to health care providers. The affordable resources available to these people have low success rates.
  • Imposing a tax on these products will drive consumers to shop in neighboring states that do not have a similar tax. At the same time, consumers will be encouraged to shop online for better deals, sending even more money out of the community. Local businesses will not be able to compete, be forced to close their doors, and jobs will be lost. This is bad for the city/state and will result in less revenue, not more.
  • It is important to note that vapor products are already subject to a general sales tax. 
  • Taxing smoke-free tobacco and nicotine products in a manner similar to how combustible tobacco products are taxed sends a confusing and inaccurate message to would-be adopters that these two very different products present similar risks. The result of this message is that more people, those that otherwise would have switched to a smoke-free product, will be encouraged to continue smoking.

How to contact your state senators on the Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology:

Copy these email addresses to the "to" form of your email client:

If you would rather not take the time to write your own email, you can use this pre-written one. Just copy it into the body of the email and hit send!

I am writing as a voter and taxpayer in Florida urging you to oppose SB 810, SB 694, SB 1394, and SB 1638, which would ban direct-to-consumer online sales and impose an outrageous 85% wholesale tax on vapor products (e-cigarettes), as well as implement a state-wide flavor band on all eliquids. While I agree that more can be done to discourage young people from buying nicotine products, this legislation goes way beyond what is necessary to enforce Florida’s existing ban on the sale of vapor products to minors. Instead of preventing youth access, this law will deny law-abiding people who smoke access to safer alternatives to combustible tobacco.

Since August of 2016, The Food & Drug Administration has been vigorously enforcing federal regulation which prohibits sales to minors--both in-store and online. The vast majority of online sellers now use a service that checks the age and identity of the purchaser against a third-party government database. Several states such as Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio require online retailers to use an independent, third-party age verification service that compares information available from public records to the personal information entered by the person during the ordering process that establishes the person is of legal purchase age or older. This requirement is effective in preventing youth access while still allowing adults to legally purchase these life-saving products at their convenience.

While Florida is growing rapidly, there is still much of the state that is off the beaten path. As such, many people who smoke who would benefit from switching to smoke free products do not live near a specialty vapor shop. For those who are unable to travel to the nearest city to buy vapor products, online sales are their most reasonable option. Meanwhile, nearly every convenience store and gas station in the state features combustible tobacco products prominently behind the cash register. In an era where harm reduction strategies are being implemented for other issues, it doesn’t make sense that Florida would make it more difficult for people to access safer alternatives to cigarettes.

Additionally, flavors are an important part of the vaping experience that allows people to switch. Let's face it, tobacco and cigarettes taste awful. The ability for an adult smoker to get their nicotine fix from something other than a burning cigarette is huge, however it is also a huge change for the smoker to make. This is where flavors come in. If a smoker can actually enjoy using their vapor products, it is much easier to make the switch. Forcing smokers to use only tobacco eliquids, which are at best a poor imitation of a cigarette, keeps the smoker constantly reminded of the cigarettes they used to smoke. In this case, it is vastly better for the smoker to use a flavor that is as different as possible, such as fruit.

Finally, now that the federal age to purchase tobacco products is 21 these state bills which raise the tobacco age to 21 are unnecessary, flavor bans and sin taxes are misguided and will have overall negative affects on public health. For these reasons, I urge you to, at the very least, wait and see what affect raising the tobacco age to 21 on youth vaping.

Please oppose SB 810, SB 694, SB 1394, and SB 1638.

I along with my fellow members of The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) thank you for considering my comments on this issue. I look forward to your continued support in protecting my access to vapor products and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
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