Next week, as Floridians head to work, stroll through shops or and enjoy a family dinner at their favorite restaurant, they will breathe air that is free from the dangerous emissions from electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.
Last November, voters spoke out against the tobacco and e-cigarette industry by heading to the polls and telling lawmakers they wanted to be protected from the harmful effects of these secondhand emissions. By an overwhelming vote — nearly 70 percent — Floridians expressed their support for Amendment 9, a constitutional amendment that updates Florida's Clean Indoor Air Act to prohibit e-cigarette use, wherever smoking is already prohibited. This is the second time voters in the state have used the constitutional amendment process to show their overwhelming support for smoke-free workplaces.
On Monday, this long overdue measure will go into effect across our state — once implemented, it will work to combat the harmful impacts of the exponential rise in e-cigarette use across Florida, including products known to the public as "vapes" or "vape pens." This trend is impacting our youth at an alarming rate, with high school e-cigarette usage rates increasing by 78 percent among high school students between 2017-2018. These numbers reinforce the urgent need to ensure Floridians of all ages are protected from dangerous secondhand e-cigarette emissions.
According to the U.S. surgeon general, the aerosol emitted from e-cigarettes is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful chemicals, including: nicotine; ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavoring such diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and, heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.
The epidemic of e-cigarette use by youth and young adults, aggressive marketing tactics by their manufacturers, including the use of flavors appealing to youth, and under-regulation of these products requires the public health community to take action to protect youth and young adults, and the public health at-large.
Fortunately, for Florida workers, restaurant patrons, shoppers and families, Monday marks a new era for public health in our state. Adding e-cigarettes to Florida's Clean Indoor Air Act helps ensure the enforcement of existing smoke-free laws are not compromised and that the public health benefits of smoke-free laws are not undermined. We know that e-cigarette aerosol poses potential risk to users and nonusers, and we commend the voters of Florida for coming out in droves last November to bring about another layer of protection against these risks, both those that are known and those yet to be determined.
This amendment was passed eight months ago, and voters may have forgotten that changes are right around the corner — but we hope that's not the case. Not only should residents be aware of the July 1 change, they should celebrate the new protections in place against dangerous secondhand e-cigarette emissions and the related health hazards. This is a long overdue modernization of the state's Clean Indoor Air Act, and one that will benefit all Floridians.
Next week, as we all celebrate the Fourth of July, we hope everyone will pause amid the fireworks and beach trips to take a deep breath of air that is — finally — largely free from harmful e-cigarette emissions.
Karen Moffitt of Tampa is state leader volunteer for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Florida, and former state Sen. Lisa Carlton of Sarasota was a commissioner on the Constitution Revision Commission.