E-cigarette bill could put more tobacco in teens' hands, groups contend – Orlando Sentinel

By Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

4:41 p.m. EDT, April 7, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — Health groups and local governments say decades of work to keep tobacco products out of the hands of young people could be overturned through a House measure billed as prohibiting the sale of trendy electronic cigarettes to minors.

The American Lung Association of Florida, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, local officials and Students Working Against Tobacco have found themselves fighting the measure (HB 169) that would prevent youths under 18 from buying electronic cigarettes. The proposal also would ban local efforts to restrict the sales of cigarettes and other tobacco-related products.

“The bill is another attempt by big tobacco to weaken protections that we all seek to keep electronic devices out of the hands of our children,” Brenda Olsen, chief operating officer of the American Lung Association in Florida, said during a news conference Monday.

However, one of the bill’s sponsors said the opposition is unwarranted, as language is planned to clarify that the legislation would only preclude local governments from making new rules about the sale of tobacco products.

While it could be taken up by the House later this week, the measure has yet to be scheduled for the floor.

The state doesn’t have rules on electronic cigarettes, the nicotine-delivery tubes that heat an often-flavored nicotine solution into a water vapor, which users draw in before exhaling as if smoking a cigarette.

The ire of the health groups is an amendment that Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, added to the bill during its final committee stop on March 27, preempting municipal and county ordinances on the sale of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

Many of those local laws require tobacco products to be placed behind the counter, forcing customers to ask for specific items before making purchases.

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