Bipartisan Florida House vote restores local control of e-cigarette regulations

April 22, 2014 

Over the objection of Republican leaders, a bi-partisan coalition in the House approved changes to an e-cigarettes regulation bill to addresses concerns from anti-smoking groups.

No one ever questioned the intent of the proposal itself, which is to restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes and other non-tobacco products to minors. But anti-smoking groups -- the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and American Cancer Society -- and local governments disliked three lines of the House version, HB 169, that also prohibited cities and counties from passing their own, stricter ordinances in the future.

As the House tacked on its language to the Senate version, SB 224, bill sponsor Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, relaxed the languaged to allow local governments to pass ordinances about nicotine products, but not e-cigarettes, after the law takes effect July 1.

That wasn't enough for Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, who introduced an amendment that removed the controversial pre-emption language all together.

"Freezing the rules in place in statute … is unsufficient to deal with the future," Hager said, arguing that local governments needed flexibility to change their laws as new products and chemicals emerge down the road.

Artiles spoke against Hager's proposal, saying it would be bad for Florida businesses. He insisted that gas station and convenience store owners could become overwhelmed and confused by a patchwork of local ordinances governing e-cigarette sales. "Uniformity is something we need in the state of Florida," Artiles said.

Democrats and nearly 30 Republicans disagreed and approved Hager's amendment 72-46. House Speaker Will Weatherford and the three men in line to succeed him as House leader all voted on the losing side.

The full House will now vote on the amended SB 224 on Wednesday. The bill has already passed the Senate unanimously.

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