Research & Commentary: Florida Legislation Defines E-Cigarettes as Tobacco Products, Would Restrict Access

Published March 25, 2019

Florida lawmakers have proposed legislation that would define electronic cigarettes as tobacco devices and restrict retail sales of flavored e-cigarettes to establishments that prohibit minors from the premises.

Senate Bill 1046 would broaden Florida’s definition of “tobacco products” to include e-cigarettes as well as other recreational nicotine products, such as smokeless tobacco and hookahs. The bill would also ban retail sales of tobacco products that have a flavor “other than tobacco, menthol, or mint” to age-restricted stores. House Bill 1125 is a companion bill to SB 1046. It includes an amendment that removes the retail flavor ban provision.

A vaping device is a tobacco harm reduction product medical experts have verified is thoroughly safer than tobacco cigarettes. Lawmakers should refrain from categorizing them in the same manner as combustible cigarettes. These products have helped millions of smokers quit and can benefit state budgets by reducing smoking-related health care costs. Moreover, the vaping industry has provided major gains to state and local economies, and it will likely continue to do so, as the market is expected to grow in the coming years.

Legislators should understand a large part of the appeal and success of electronic cigarettes among adult smokers is the inclusion of flavors. Restricting access to this aspect of tobacco harm reduction will likely lead to many adults continuing to smoke tobacco cigarettes and/or return to other traditional tobacco products.

Public Health England (PHE) declared in 2015 e-cigarettes to be 95 percent safer than smoking. In 2018, after reexamining the evidence, PHE “reiterated its claim that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking.”  The agency is also responsible for the “Stoptober” campaign, urging smokers to quit tobacco cigarettes and promotes the use of e-cigarettes as “a great way to fight cravings – they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.”

Other organizations such as the Royal College of Physicians, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the American Cancer Society have also acknowledged the reduced harm of e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

Lawmakers should note e-cigarettes can save Medicaid billions of dollars by reducing health care costs caused by smoking. Because Medicaid recipients smoke at rates “more than double for adults with private insurance,” the program is unduly impacted by smoking-related health care costs, estimated around “$39.6 billion annually, or 15.2 percent of Medicaid expenditures nationwide.”

One study analyzing all Medicaid recipients switching from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes estimates savings would have amounted to $48 billion in 2012. Another study of a smaller percentage of the same population switching found Medicaid savings would be “approximately $2.8 billion per 1 percent of enrollees” over the next 25 years.

Besides the reduced harm, a major appeal to American adults is the variety of flavors offered by vaping devices. A 2016 Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association survey of 37,343 U.S. adult e-cigarette users found 72 percent of respondents “credited tasty flavors with helping them give up tobacco.” A 2018 survey of nearly 70,000 American adult vapers found flavors played an important role, with 83.2 percent and 72.3 percent of respondents vaping fruit and dessert flavors, respectively, “at least some of the time.”

Although lawmakers demonize flavors because they appeal to some young people, the industry does not market to children. In fact, the Vapor Technology Association, a trade association representing vaping “manufacturers, wholesalers, small business owners and entrepreneurs” requires members to “refrain from knowingly marketing Vapor Products to Minors, which is strictly prohibited.”  Members “have implemented strict standards to prevent youth access to vapor products.”

Rather than imposing onerous regulations, lawmakers should follow other public health groups and promote the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

The following articles provide more information on tobacco harm reduction and electronic cigarettes. 

Vaping, E-Cigarettes, and Public Policy Toward Alternatives to Smoking
For decades, lawmakers and regulators have used taxes, bans, and burdensome regulations as part of their attempt to reduce the negative health effects of smoking. Recently, some have sought to extend those policies to electronic cigarettes. This booklet from The Heartland Institute urges policymakers to re-think that tax-and-regulate strategy. Policymakers should be mindful of the extensive research that supports tobacco harm reduction and understand bans, excessive regulations, and high taxes on e-cigarettes often encourage smokers to continue using more-harmful traditional cigarette products.

Podcast Series: Voices of Vapers
In this weekly podcast series, State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud talks with researchers, advocates, and policymakers about tobacco harm reduction and electronic cigarettes. The series provides important information about the thousands of entrepreneurs who have started small businesses thanks to THRs and the millions of adults that have used electronic cigarettes and vaping devices to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Research & Commentary: Largest Vaping Survey Finds Flavors Play Important Role in Tobacco Harm Reduction–commentary-largest-vaping-survey-finds-flavors-play-important-role-in-tobacco-harm-reduction
In this Research & Commentary, Heartland State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examines a survey of nearly 70,000 adult vapers in the United States. The survey was completed in response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on the role of flavors in tobacco products. The authors found nearly 95 percent of survey respondents were at one time smokers and the majority reported using flavors at the point of e-cigarette initiation. Stroud compares this to other surveys. She concludes, “eliminating flavors will force [vapers] to vape only tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, which would likely cause them to return to combustible cigarettes.” Stroud also found research has found e-cigarettes are a key tobacco harm reduction product and could help alleviate state budgets by mitigating health care costs.

E-Cigarettes Poised to Save Medicaid Billions
In a new report from State Budget Solutions, J. Scott Moody finds e-cigarette use could create significant savings for state governments, especially in their Medicaid programs: “As shown in this study, the potential savings to Medicaid significantly exceeds [sic] the state revenue raised from the cigarette excise tax and tobacco settlement payments by 87%. As such, the rational policy decision is to adopt a non-interventionist stance toward the evolution and adoption of the e-cig until hard evidence proves otherwise.”

Research & Commentary: Randomized Trial Finds E-Cigarettes Are More Effective Smoking Cessation Tool Than Nicotine Replacement Therapy–commentary-randomized-trial-finds-e-cigarettes-are-more-effective-smoking-cessation-tool-than-nicotine-replacement-therapy
Lindsey Stroud, a State Government Relations Manager at The Heartland Institute examines a study in The New England Journal of Medicine that finds e-cigarettes and vaping devices to be twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in helping smokers quit cigarettes. Nearly 700 participants were studied over a 52-week period, with researchers finding that 18 percent of e-cigarette users reported abstinence, compared to 9 percent of those using NRT. Stroud writes that “these latest findings provide more valuable information on the public health role that e-cigarettes and vaping devices provide for the 38 million cigarette smokers in the United States,” an implores policymakers to regulate these devices in a way that promotes their usage.

Research & Commentary: Study Finds E-Cigarettes Would Prevent 6.6 Million Premature Deaths–commentary-study-finds-e-cigarettes-would-prevent-66-million-premature-deaths
Heartland Institute State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examines an October 2017 Tobacco Control study that found electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) might help extend life for millions of people. The authors of the study found there was an estimated 6.6 million fewer deaths and more than 86 million fewer-life-years lost over a ten year period because of ENDS products. Stroud concludes the use of ENDS could also help improve the budgets of numerous state programs, including Medicaid.

Research & Commentary: Qualitative Study on E-cigarettes Shows More Evidence of Tobacco Harm Reduction
In this Research & Commentary, Heartland Institute State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examines a study, published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in June 2016, that provides additional evidence showing e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) are an effective tobacco harm-reduction tool.

Research & Commentary: New CDC Report Finds Vaping Helps Smokers Quit
A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found only 0.4 percent of the people who had never smoked tobacco in a CDC study group are current vapers, which the report defines as using a vaping device either every day or some days. The CDC report, the first of its kind, estimates e-cigarette use among U.S. adults using a nationally representative household survey. The report’s findings claim only 3.4 of adults who have never smoked have tried an e-cigarette; 12.6 percent of Americans have tried an e-cigarette; and fewer than 4 percent of the U.S. population are regular e-cigarette users.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the Budget & Tax News website, The Heartland Institute’s website, Heartland’s Consumer Freedom Lounge, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

The Heartland Institute can send an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; host an event in your state; or send you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance! If you have any questions or comments, contact Lindsey Stroud, a state government relations manager at Heartland, at [email protected] or 757/354-8170.