Legislature approves flavor-targeting vape restrictions, but exempts e-liquids

Flavored vapes are safe in the Sunshine State for now, just not the disposable kind.

The Florida Legislature has passed a heavily amended bill (HB 1007) that could spell the end for colorful and flavorful vape products with a one-use lifespan.

But the measure carves out refillable devices and e-liquids, which may enable vape enthusiasts with more wherewithal — adults, essentially — to continue their habit without much issue, if not entirely unabated.

“This completely exempts, quote, open systems, (unquote), that vape shops specialize in,” Palm City Republican Rep. Toby Overdorf said.

The version of HB 1007 that passed Thursday night in the House by a 105-5 vote is vastly different from the legislation Overdorf and Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry first filed.

In its original form, the bill prohibited sales of any vape product that had not received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. That would have limited retailers to selling just 23 products from Big Tobacco companies RJ Reynolds, Japan Tobacco International and Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris. All are tobacco-flavored.

Overdorf and Perry said the goal was to protect Florida youths, who prefer fruity flavors and flashily designed products.

They cited data from the FDA and U.S. Department of Health showing flavored vape products, including menthols, are more attractive to children. Attorney General Ashley Moody opined the same in an October lawsuit she filed against vape company Juul, asserting that its products have a “sleek design that could be easily concealed and … flavors known to be attractive to underage users.”

But throughout the committee process, lawmakers heard repeated complaints from vape shop owners, former tobacco users and industry advocates that the coming flavor dearth would hurt businesses and lead smokers to relapse.

The amended HB 1007 appears to be something of a concession.

Rather than use the FDA benchmark, which could soon change, the bill directs the Department of Legal Affairs under Moody to develop and maintain a directory listing all single-use nicotine vapes it deems attractive to minors. The department must make the list publicly available on Jan. 1, 2025, and regularly update it after.

Once a product is added to the list, retailers and wholesalers will have 60 days to sell or remove the product from their inventory. Afterward, the products would be subject to seizure and destruction.

People who knowingly sell, ship or receive banned products would face a first-degree misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Beginning March 1, 2025, manufacturers that sell prohibited products in the state would face a fine of $1,000 per day for each device it offers for sale until it is removed from the market.

These strictures will extend to manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and distributors that ship products into Florida.

HB 1007 cleared the Senate with unanimous support. In the House, Democratic Reps. Ashley Gantt, Yvonne Hinson, Angie Nixon, Michele Rayner and Patricia Hawkins-Williams voted “no” after Overdorf was less than forthcoming about whether the bill allows flavors.

When asked by Weston Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman whether the bill bans flavors, Overdorf replied that the bill is “silent on flavor.” Nixon asked roughly the same question and received a similarly unspecific answer.

Overdorf did not explain how significantly the amendment changed his bill, nor did he say that it essentially gives Moody’s office free rein over which single-use vape products to ban — and that flavor would likely factor into her decisions.

The bill is effective Oct. 1. Gov. Ron DeSantis can now choose to either sign the bill, let it become law without his signature or veto it.

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