Rose: I commend DeSantis for vetoing the vaping bill

man in gray shirt and brown cowboy hat sitting on grass field
Photo by Eduardo Lempo on Pexels.com



I was pleasantly astounded, honestly quite shocked, last week when I saw the Facebook post from State Representative Anthony Sabatini sharing the news that Governor Ron DeSantis had vetoed FL-Senate Bill 810.

This bill, which the Gainesville Sun, Florida Politics, and other news outlets are somewhat misleadingly calling the “Youth Vaping Bill,” originated in the Florida Legislature as an effort to incorporate into State statutes last year’s change in federal policy direction, raising the minimum purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21.

That directive in itself, stemming from a provision carefully tucked away into a $1.4 trillion spending bill that President Trump signed into law at the close of 2019, has some constitutionalists–and States’ Rights proponents–worried that this is yet another example of congressional and federal executive overreach. Our older citizens will remember the argument some decades ago, culminating in 1984 with President Reagan signing the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, a federal law that gave States the option to either raise their drinking age to 21 or face a 10% cut to their federal highway funding. One may assume the precedent there and present a question as to how the feds can proclaim a similar law now that deals with age but does not require State approval to take effect.

It is outrageous enough that the government can, at their whim, pick and choose what constitutes adulthood. One number to pay taxes. A different number to marry. Another number that mandates registration for Selective Service. Another, different still, to purchase alcohol and firearms. Are we really set to tell 18-20-year-olds that in the land of the free, they may work full-time; pay taxes; be eligible for military draft service; become joined in holy matrimony; buy a house; have children; and may vote in federal, State, and local elections… but they still have not achieved the age necessary to buy a beer nor a cigar to celebrate their accomplishments or a firearm to defend their estate. Preposterous. 

On that premise alone, I lobbied against the bill. Indeed, at the local level, I appeared before the Alachua County Commission as far back as 2018, when our own County first considered an ordinance appeasing Tobacco 21. I spoke numerous times against their doing so, and then when the local measure ultimately passed, I began lobbying municipalities to opt out. The cities of Newberry and High Springs both passed ordinances of their own, stating they would not enforce the County’s law, for the same reasons I have previously articulated. Of course, those efforts were systematically rendered obsolete by the federal government intervention. 

And so we have FL Senate Bill 810, legislation that was initially introduced by Senator David Simmons – Republican, Longwood. Passing through multiple committees in both chambers of the Legislature, it garnered little opposition from either side and soon morphed into a monstrosity that not only raised the minimum purchase age, giving the State an effective method to enforce hierarchical “law” on tobacco products, but then went further to ban the sale to all ages of flavored nicotine “e-juice” that vaping devices use. 

That is where I sat up and took notice. As an adult in my early thirties, I regularly employ the use of flavored nicotine solutions in vape devices to help me steer clear from my previous 13-year habit of smoking cigarettes. All of a sudden we’re not just arguing about stripping adults 18-20 of their ability to legally purchase a chemical that has been publicly available for centuries, but now we’re essentially denying adults of all ages the vast benefits of these new devices that are not perfect, no — but they have aided smokers like myself in ceasing the traditional yet tremendously more harmful method of putting a flame to tobacco-filled paper and inhaling the combustion. 

It is true that we have no doubt seen in recent years a significant, horrifying even, increase and spike in the number of underage youth opting to incorporate vaping into their miscreant, but otherwise generally harmless, delinquencies. Whereas cigarette smoking leaves behind a distinct odor and the packs are easily identified if uncovered, vaping produces a cloud that, though pleasingly flavored to the inhaler, evaporates within seconds and leaves no trace. Complicating matters further is the fact that some devices are compact to the point that they resemble a USB flash drive, commonly found in student gear. For lawful users like myself, and hundreds of thousands of others, these features are positive and are among the characteristics of vaping that we enjoy.

The argument has been made that in order to combat underage use, we must increase the age required for purchase to ensure that no high-school senior at age 18 may be tempted (or bribed) into becoming a distributor to their younger peers at a place of education. This is the same argument that was successfully used two years ago to make it illegal in Florida for anyone under 21 to buy a gun. 

It would seem that government officials know of no other way to counter criminal activity, no manner in which to enforce current and existing law, other than to expand further these prohibitions onto peaceful and upstanding citizens who would otherwise wish to remain as law-abiding. If criminals by definition do not follow laws, why is it the knee-jerk reaction by those in power to punish the ones not responsible for the actual crime?

As a Libertarian and a full believer in personal responsibility for one’s actions, I neither require nor desire to have my life infringed upon by lawmakers laboring to correct a problem that I myself had nothing to do with. To put it bluntly, stop punishing the many for the actions of a specific few. 

I commend Governor DeSantis for vetoing this bill. For all I might have against him and his office, he got this one right. The reasoning provided by him in his veto memo was spot on. I long for the days when all governing bodies in this country preside themselves on the principle that individual liberty is the cornerstone of good government. 

To borrow the words of someone who knew a little bit about governing: “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.” — Thomas Jefferson. 

Chris Rose II is an elected member of the Libertarian Party of Florida Rules Committee

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com.

  • Great letter. The photo with the guy vaping though is
    Crazy…being able to breathe is very important to
    Living…putting all that vape In your lungs can’t be
    Good for you.

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