Anti-Vaping Constitutional Amendment Faces Critical Vote In Florida

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

A proposed constitutional amendment to greatly restrict Florida vaping rights will face a critical vote this week to determine if the question will be put to voters in November.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission will decide the fate of a number of proposals this week, which range from a ban on indoor vaping at workplaces to public school reforms. The commission is facing intense criticism for voting April 4 to lump various, unrelated proposals together in what detractors say is an effort to force voters to accept constitutional changes they do not support, News 4 JAX reported.

A coalition including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the First Amendment Foundation, the AFL-CIO of Florida and the League of Women Voters of Florida are condemning the move, calling it a “dramatic departure” from protocol followed in 1998 — the last time the Constitution Revision Commission met.

“Some of the groupings appear to be designed to force commissioners and voters to accept constitutional changes they do not like in order to get those that they do,” the coalition said in a letter to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, according to News 4 JAX. “We can all smell an attempted political manipulation a mile away. And right now, this process is not passing the smell test.”

The commission meets every 20 years to discuss updates to the Florida Constitution and has authority to put issues to the people through a ballot vote without approval from the state legislature. The vaping amendment, former Republican state Sen. Lisa Carlton proposed, would ban the harm reduction devices in all workplaces in the state — as well as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

It is currently coupled with a proposed amendment banning offshore drilling for gas and oil.

E-cigarette use adversely impacts Florida residents, who are being unfairly exposed to secondhand “toxins” in the vapor released from the devices, Carlton claims. However, current evidence does not warrant Carlton’s fears over secondhand exposure.

Research published in the Journal of Aerosol Science in January shows chemical levels in the vapor released from e-cigarettes are well below the safety limits the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization suggest. Vaping is statistically 5,700 times less harmful to users than combustible cigarettes, drastically reducing the risk of developing smoking related illnesses, the study determined.

Despite scientific evidence, the proposal appears to be gaining support, including from Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi. “We are just keeping up with technology,” Bondi said on March 20.

The amendment will force them back into smoking areas, negating the harm reduction benefits of quitting combustible cigarettes, former smokers, who now rely on vapor products to satiate their cravings, said.

“Carlton’s idea will likely pass because smokers of any stripe make good villains,” The Gainesville Sun editorial board said March 28. “But that should not be the standard. Here’s a radical idea: before we ban a perfectly legal product and shun its users, let’s fully understand the health risks. That might take time. Meanwhile, and if necessary, leave it to individual companies to decide whether their employees and customers should be subjected to the perils Carlton sees in the puff of a vaper’s smoke.”

If it clears a final vote from the commission this week, it will appear on the November ballot, where it will need the support of at least 60 percent of voters to pass.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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