Florida Bill Would Allow Only The Sales of PMTA Approved Flavoured Vapes

Despite the evidence in favour of vape flavours for smoking cessation, proposals for bans keep popping across the globe. What impact do these have on smokers and public health at large?

A Florida bill (SB 1006) proposing restrictions on the sale of flavoured vaping products is advancing to the Senate floor, despite facing criticism. Introduced by Senator Keith Perry, the legislation aims to limit the sale of flavours to only those products that have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), via its Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA) process.

What is wrong with this proposal, some may ask? Well.. a lot. Firstly, out of 26 million products submitted for the rigorous, length and very costly PMTA approval, only a mere 23 were authorized. However, what is really unacceptable is the fact that all these approved products are owned by major tobacco companies, including RJ Reynolds, Japan Tobacco International, and Altria.

Senator Perry emphasized that the bill’s goal is to protect children, stating that Florida leads the nation in illegal vaping product sales, with a $363 million illicit market in the previous year. Echoing concerns by the FDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Perry alleged that with their bright colours and candy or fruit flavours, many of these products are designed to attract children.

Tobacco companies would be the main benefiters of the bill
SB 1006 and its counterpart in the House (HB 1007) propose creating a directory under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) for manufacturers of FDA-approved nicotine dispensing e-cigarettes and vape products. Manufacturers would register their approved products, and DBPR would publish a list online for retailers and wholesalers to ensure compliance. Wholesalers operating in Florida would need a permit, and violations could result in fines ranging from $500 to $5,000 and prison sentences of 60 days to five years.

Proponents of the bill, including Chief Deputy Attorney General John Guard, argue that the legislation aligns with congressional policy and aims to prevent the influx of illicit vape products targeting minors, often originating from Chinese manufacturers.

Meanwhile, argue critics of the proposed measure, amongst other things all 23 FDA-approved products are also manufactured in China. Industry experts warn that restricting sales to such a small number of items could result in significant financial losses, create a black market for illicit and therefore potentially dangerous products. While smoking cessation experts have consistently explained that smokers need as many options as possible, therefore the solution would lie in enforcing age restrictions, rather than making products which many turn to quit smoking unavailable.

Do seasoned smokers really need flavours?
Despite opposition, Senator Perry defended the bill, rejecting arguments that limiting flavours and non-FDA-approved products would cause more harm than good. He stressed that people seeking to quit smoking are unlikely to transition from tobacco to bubblegum- or blue raspberry-flavoured vapes. In fact this is an argument often made my those in support of flavour bans: why would anyone who has smoking tobacco all their life, all of a sudden be interested in flavours normally associated with children? We asked two renowned experts in the field.

Tobacco harm reduction expert and Adjunct Professor from the University of Ottawa Centre for Health Law, David Sweanor, explained that this particular argument is ridiculous. “Flavours are a key part of what can entice people who smoke cigarettes to switch to massively lower risk alternatives. Having agency is an important consumer right. He [Senator Perry] would undoubtedly be offended if told his option of food, exercise, movies or soda were to be dictated to him.

It is hard to think of any other public health measure that would have as dramatic an impact and can be so easily achieved as getting people to cease cigarette smoking. Any barriers put in their way should be carefully weighed in terms of the additional premature deaths that will result.

If a politician initially succumbs to sloganeering about ‘youth’ and thinks draconian market interventions that make vaping a less viable alternative to cigarette smoking might protect youth, they should do a proper policy analysis. That means looking at the risk of diverting of youth to cigarette use, the impact of losing parents and grandparents to death and disability due to continued smoking, the exposure of those youth to unnecessary second-hand smoke and house fires, and the continued family financial strain from cigarette purchases.”

“In my experience many smokers switching to vaping start with tobacco flavour as it is familiar, but most to switch to other flavours later. Other flavours are more enjoyable, remind them less of smoking.”Dr. Colin Mendelsohn

While physician and smoking cessation expert and researcher Dr. Colin Mendelsohn told Vaping Post that amongst other things, switching to flavours may help smokers slowly dissociate from smoking. “In my experience many smokers switching to vaping start with tobacco flavour as it is familiar, but most to switch to other flavours later. Other flavours are more enjoyable, remind them less of smoking. For some, flavours are an important incentive to switch. They are also associated with higher quit rates, greater enjoyment and reduced relapse.”

Vetoing a previous flavour ban was proven good idea
Until now Florida had relatively moderate measures related to vaping products. In 2020, the state legislature had already passed a bill banning e-cigarette flavours, but the bill was later rejected after local lawmakers listened to the concerns of local vapers and public health experts. The latter explained that the bill would have been detrimental to the industry, but most importantly it would have denied smokers their preferred safer alternatives, making it harder for them to stay off cigarettes, whilst deterring many others from switching.

“While originally conceived as a bill to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 (which is superfluous given this is already mandated by federal law), SB 810 effectively bans tobacco-free vaping flavours used by hundreds of thousands of Floridians as a reduced-risk alternative to cigarettes, which are more dangerous,” said Gov. DeSantis in his veto message.

This move had been commended by experts, and data have consistently confirmed that the Governor had taken the right decision, as several renowned studies have indicated not only that youth vaping rates are dropping, but also that more smokers have quit via e-cigarettes than any other NRT. Moreover, a study from the Yale School of Public Health found that adult vapers who use flavours are ore likely to quit smoking than those who use tobacco flavours.