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March 28, 2020

New VTA Commercial Urges Florida Governor to Veto Flavor Ban

The Vapor Technology Association is desperately fighting to stop a flavor ban in the crucially important state of Florida. Now it’s returning to a strategy it used last year to help persuade President Trump against banning flavored vaping products nationally.

The vaping trade group has produced a TV commercial that will run on two stations in the Florida capitol Tallahassee, beginning today. The goal is to get the commercials seen by one person: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

As we reported last week, DeSantis is currently considering whether to sign or veto a bill passed two weeks ago by the Florida legislature that will, if passed, ban all flavored vaping products except tobacco and menthol. (The bill also imposes restrictions on online sales, bans vaping within 1,000 feet of a school, and changes the legal age to buy tobacco and vaping products in Florida to 21.)

The bill includes a clause that would exempt products approved by the FDA through Premarket Tobacco Applications—but, since no PMTAs for flavored e-liquids have been submitted to the FDA, and approvals are likely to take at least a year (if they happen at all), the exemption is meaningless for businesses that must sell products to stay alive.

The VTA commercial, titled “Florida’s Economy,” begins dramatically. “A crisis…Florida’s economy crippled by the virus,” says the narrator. She then shifts to describing the effects SB 810 will have if the governor signs it. “If it becomes law, 4,500 jobs lost…800 small businesses closed—gone forever.”

The commercial follows the outline VTA used last year to make a series of ads aimed at President Trump. The dual focus on economic and health damage caused by vaping bans is a perfect strategy to appeal to a conservative—especially now that the Florida governor is facing the first acute threats in years to his state’s economy and public health.

According to a recent study by economists John Dunham & Associates, banning flavored vaping products would lead to more than $605 million in lost economic activity in the state. In a state already ravaged by the economic and health impacts of the growing coronavirus pandemic, the prospect of permanently closing 800 businesses and putting 4,500 new residents into unemployment lines is a horrible one for a governor who takes special pride in his state’s economic strength.

Vape shops depend on selling flavored e-liquid, which is the business’s primary profit driver. Without it, nearly all small vaping businesses are unlikely to survive. That’s why JUUL has deceptively urged its own Florida customers to encourage the governor to sign the bill, to eliminate their primary vaping industry competition in the huge state.

Conservative activist and ATR president Grover Norquist last week urged DeSantis to veto the flavor ban. “Those very same adults who attempt to quit smoking should have a diverse selection of alternatives that may help them reduce or eliminate their use of cigarettes,” Norquist wrote to DeSantis, adding that committed vapers are less likely to vote for politicians who support vaping restrictions.

CASAA has produced a call to action Florida residents can use to send messages to Gov. DeSantis. Because he could take action at any time, it’s important for as many Florida vapers as possible to ask him immediately to veto the flavor ban.

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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