Proposed amendment would ban vaping indoors in Florida

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Constitution Revision Commission member Lisa Carlton’s proposal would add vaping to the state’s voter-approved 2002 ban on indoor smoking.

By John Kennedy | GateHouse Capital Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — Vaping and e-cigarettes would be added to the state’s indoor ban on smoking under a ballot proposal advanced Tuesday by the state’s Constitution Revision Commission.

But the same panel showed little interest in a separate proposal that could reduce an anti-smoking campaign voters years ago agreed to finance with a portion of the state’s landmark settlement with cigarette makers.

Commissioner Lisa Carlton, a former Republican state senator from Osprey, had an easy time getting her proposed vaping ban to the next step on the path to the ballot: The CRC’s rules and drafting committee.

“Those of us who don’t vape have been an experiment,” said Carlton, who said the second-hand health risks of vaping are still being determined. “But it’s really time for all of us to clean up our malls, restaurants and our workplaces.”

Carlton’s proposal would add vaping to the state’s voter-approved 2002 ban on indoor smoking.

She said it was largely a technical change, pointing out that while e-cigarettes have only become widely available in the last few years, they pose potential health risks to users, and those near them.

“I just see this as keeping up with technology,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who also serves on the CRC.

Bondi said that in 2002, vaping was “something that was never contemplated.”

Carlton’s proposal would ban vaping at restaurants, offices and most other indoor public settings. It advanced to the CRC’s Style and Drafting Committee, a final step before coming back for a vote by the full commission which faces a May 10 deadline for finalizing its 2018 ballot proposals.

The other smoking measure by Commissioner Jeannette Nunez, a Republican House member from Miami, drew a range of questions before she postponed action on the proposal amid little apparent support.

Nunez is looking to ask voters to revamp a 2006 constitutional amendment that currently steers $23 million from the 1997 settlement with cigarette makers toward the Tobacco Free Florida television advertising and marketing campaign. Nunez’s proposal would put funding for the program before the Legislature for review.

She called the allocation an “arbitrary number that does not belong in our constitution.”

But Carlton and other members questioned the move. Carlton said that through a long series of CRC hearings around the state, “I’m not seeing a groundswell from the public that says we have to change this.”

Commissioner Arthenia Joyner, a former Tampa Democratic state senator, also challenged Nunez.

“Why do you think the Legislature has the right to change the program?” Joyner asked.

Nunez defended her approach, saying it was worthwhile to re-evaluate all the anti-tobacco spending outlined by voters in 2006. But in postponing a vote on the measure, Nunez left its future in doubt.

The CRC meets every 20 years and has the power to put constitutional amendments directly on the ballot.

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