After being agreed on by a 33-3 margin, Florida will vote on vaping and offshore drilling under the same proposed amendment this fall
Once every 20 years, a team of 37 commissioners come together and decide if the state constitution in Florida ought to be modified in any way. This year’s meeting of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission was of particular concern to vapers who were watching closely to see if the group would move to ban e-cigarette use across the state. After a few months of discussion, the commission recently voted by a margin of 33-3 to put a vaping ban on the ballot in November.
But in a move that’s caused much criticism from both affected industries, the proposed vaping ban was joined at the hip with a proposed ban on coastal drilling. While the commissioners claim that they belong together due to being campaigned together as “clean air, clean water,” many others simply don’t agree. As a result, a multi-faceted battle is being set up for the polls this fall.
How We Got Here
The lead voice in the push for the vaping ban has been Commissioner Lisa Carlton. She’s gone on the record several times to state that she believes vaping is as dangerous as smoking and needs to be regulated as such. She makes these claims despite a significant lack of evidence indicating that vaping is anywhere near as dangerous as traditional tobacco smoke. The proposed ban is just an amendment to Florida’s 2002 tobacco control law that prevents public smoking across the state.
Critics claim that this is a gross overstepping of boundaries, given that the original 2002 amendment had decades of peer-reviewed research to back up its stance. Even former Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is a well known anti-vaping advocate acknowledged that there just is not enough evidence to conclude that vaping presents the same level of harm as burned tobacco. “Gaps in scientific evidence do exist, and this report is being issued while these products and their patterns of use continue to change quickly,” said Dr. Murthy in a recent interview.
Meanwhile, the drilling industry is fighting their own battle trying to get approval to drill in the Florida coastal waters. This particular battle is taking on extra importance in light of President Trump’s plan to allow oil and gas drilling in waters around the country. Back in January, the Interior Secretary said that Florida would not be part of the proposed drilling, which led to harsh criticism from other state’s heavily invested in coastal tourism. Regardless, after the overwhelming vote, it’s set in stone that voters will have to decide whether or not these seemingly very different activities will be banned together in Florida.
Reaction To The Joint-Amendment
What we’re left with in Florida is a very complicated and multi-sided issue. Voters will be forced to vote for both, or neither of these bans when election day comes. This leaves the numerous voters who have conflicting beliefs on these issues in the cold. As a result, both the vaping and drilling industries see themselves as being at a major disadvantage given the conjoined nature of the vote. For the drilling industry, it means being married to something that is continually dragged through the mud and equated to harmful combustible cigarettes at every opportunity. The vaping industry finds itself at odds with the very vocal group of Floridians who believe their coastal waters must be preserved. Both of these issues are extremely important to large groups of people, making everything that much more sensitive.
In fact, the head of the Florida Petroleum Council, David Mica, issued a press release that condemned the decision of the commission to combine the vaping and drilling bans into one vote. “Monday’s decision will force Florida’s voters to vote for or against two completely unrelated, but important, issues at the same time. Bundling these issues is mixing apples and oranges, and this decision, made without any public debate, could harm jobs, the state economy, tax revenues, and our long-term energy future.” Meanwhile, the chair of the Commission’s Style and Drafting Committee, Brecht Heuchan, challenged the assertion that they don’t belong together, “If anything went together, it was those two.”
Regardless of how you feel about the circumstances, the reality is apparent. Voters in Florida must decide the future of vaping this fall while also taking into account the future safety of their coastal waters. Despite insistence from the commission that these two issues belong together, many in the community believe that this is patently false. Vaping is a proven harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. As long as smoking is one of the biggest causes of preventable death and disease, we shouldn’t be aiming to limit the availability of something proven to help smokers quit. It makes even less sense to tie the fate of such a ban to something that is so different and impactful. But these are the cards we’re dealt. So now it’s up to the voters in Florida to choose between the pitiful options given.
Do you think that vaping and drilling should be voted on in the same package, if so why? Do you think that equating vaping with smoking is the wrong way to keep kids away from smoking? Why do you think that the Florida Commission decided to combine these two seemingly different bans? Let us know the answers to any and all of these questions down in the comments, and don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.