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Florida vape bill heads to House floor

Arek Sarkissian BY AREK SARKISSIAN - 02/26/2020 12:35 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A House bill that would impose new regulations on the vape industry was approved by its final committee today and is now eligible for discussion on the chamber floor.

FL HB7089 (20R) by state Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on a 15-1 vote.

State Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola) voted against the bill, saying he was concerned about language that could exposing vaping manufacturers to punitive damages in lawsuits.

Hill’s comments were in response to testimony by William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute. Large told the committee that existing law governing punitive damages was sufficient and targeting one industry would set a dangerous precedent.

After the meeting, Large said the provision would make it easier for plaintiffs to receive higher payouts for pain and suffering.

The bill would establish definitions and terms that the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation would use to write rules for the vape industry. The measure is similar to two Senate bills, FL SB810 (20R) and FL SB1394 (20R), by state Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs), which would levy license fees on vape shops and penalties for unlawful sales.

One big difference between the two bills is that the Senate version defines vape devices as a tobacco product while the House version creates a new set of legal definitions specific to the vape industry.

The Senate bills are eligible for a full floor vote after the Committee on Appropriations approved them on a 19-1 vote last week.

Health advocacy groups including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association oppose the House bill, saying the new legal definitions will conflict with terms already established in federal law.

The vape industry opposes the Senate bill because it links vaping to the tobacco industry.