As a government agency, the Florida Department of Health and the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida cannot institute or advocate for new laws. We do, however, help inform the public about tobacco’s health risks and dangers, and local Tobacco Free Partnerships in each of Florida’s counties work to pass tobacco policies.
While there is no law banning the sale of tobacco in Florida, there has been steady progress made in strengthening youth prevention, raising prices of tobacco, restrictions on marketing, and protecting the public from secondhand smoke. All of these efforts limit the impact of tobacco use. Part of this is accomplished through statewide legislation such as the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act (FCIAA), which prohibits smoking in all enclosed workplaces, and Florida’s $1 state cigarette tax increase in 2009, which contributed to the overall decline in smokers in the state.
There has also been legal action in Florida against the tobacco industry and laws to protect the state’s comprehensive tobacco education and use prevention program. On August 25, 1997, Florida became the second state in the nation to settle a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The tobacco lawsuits were intended to punish cigarette makers for decades of fraud and racketeering and to help states pay for the Medicaid and other public health expenses to cover sick smokers. Florida was among three other states – Texas, Mississippi and Minnesota – that settled with the tobacco industry before the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 between the tobacco industry and the other 46 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
In 2006, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment requiring that a percentage of the state’s settlement fund must be used for a comprehensive tobacco education and use prevention program. The funding was used to create Tobacco Free Florida. In 2012, Florida’s adult-smoking rate was at 17.7 percent, well below the national average of 19.6 percent. Further, the smoking rate for high school students in Florida dropped to 8.6 percent in 2013, below the national average of 23.3 percent, and the number of youth who have pledged never to smoke increased from 55 percent in 2006 to 67.7 percent.
Local communities can also strengthen many of their laws. We support these efforts by coordinating with and funding local Tobacco Free Partnerships in every county to provide education on these issues.
If you are interested in helping implement change in your community, we encourage you to get involved with your local Tobacco Free Partnership, which works to make tobacco use less acceptable and tobacco products less accessible to youth. For more information, please visit www.tobaccofreeflorida.com/getinvolved.