While Florida vaping advocates are fighting to save flavored products and the vape shops that sell them, JUUL Labs is quietly encouraging its customers to ask the governor to sign a bill that will ban flavors—without explaining to them exactly what the law would do. Hundreds of independent vaping businesses in Florida will be destroyed if the bill is signed, and that’s what JUUL is hoping for.
The state legislature passed SB 810 last week. The bill brings the state into compliance with the new federal restriction on tobacco and vapor product sales to people under 21, and also bans sales of vaping products in flavors other than tobacco and menthol. The bill is now on the governor’s desk, waiting for him to either sign it into law or veto it.
Passage of the bill would make Florida the third state to ban vaping flavors, and the first outside the northeast. It would deny the most effective products to nearly a million vapers, and shut down almost 1,000 vaping businesses. The independent vaping industry is frantically trying to mobilize opposition to the bill, and consumer advocate group CASAA has issued a call to action to all Florida vapers.
But while small vaping businesses and vaping consumers desperately try to convince Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the bill, JUUL has sent an email to its large mailing list of Florida customers, asking them to urge the governor to pass it into law. JUUL claims to advocate for the bill because of its support for age restrictions on sales.
“The Governor of Florida has a chance to sign legislation into law that will raise the minimum age for purchasing or possessing tobacco products, including vapor products, from 18 to 21 years of age,” says the email.
“Your Governor’s decision to make Tobacco 21 the law in Florida is critical to both reducing underage use and preserving your access to vaping products like JUUL that have helped you transition away from combustible cigarettes.
“Please take one minute to send an important message that asks Governor DeSantis to sign Tobacco 21 legislation into law today!”
The message has a link to a prewritten letter asking the governor to sign the bill into law. Nowhere does JUUL explain that the bill will eliminate the choice of using flavored vaping products for all Florida consumers—as well as killing vape shops and destroying the independent vaping industry.
JUUL no longer needs to advocate for state-by-state passage of Tobacco 21 laws. The passage of the federal law in December means that the legal age in Florida—and every other state—is 21. The state bill merely codifies Florida’s enforcement plan, which is a requirement for the state to maintain some federal funding.
The real reason JUUL wants its customers to urge adoption of the bill is to pass the flavor ban, which will wipe out its primary competition: vape shops and e-liquid manufacturers. JUUL has long said it wants to “reset the vapor category,” which would leave JUUL and a few tobacco companies with most of the business.
JUUL pulled most of its own flavors off the market in November 2018, and ended sales of its popular mint pods a year later. The Trump administration banned sales of all prefilled pod- and cartridge-based vaping products in flavors other than tobacco and menthol this year.
Despite the firestorm over youth using flavored vaping products, the National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that flavors aren’t the primary reason youth try vaping. But large surveys of adult vapers show that most successful adult vapers depend on flavored products. JUUL is well aware of that data, but apparently cares less about millions of vapers who have quit smoking with flavored products (including JUUL’s flavored pods!) than it does about its market share.
If JUUL gets its way and Gov. DeSantis signs the bill into law, all legitimate vapor businesses will have the choice of selling tobacco and menthol flavors, or going out of business. With the May PMTA deadline rapidly approaching, and the confusion caused by the coronavirus epidemic already putting small vape businesses under intense pressure, a flavor ban would probably shut down many Florida vape shops very quickly.