Why Florida Just Banned Indoor Vaping and Offshore Drilling With a Single Vote

The state of Florida voted in favor of Amendment 9 that lumps the two issues together for environmental reasons.
Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that bans offshore drilling and indoor vaping.
Image: Pixabay

In one fell swoop, Floridians approved a ban on offshore drilling and indoor vaping in a bizarre constitutional amendment that combined the two issues.

Both were bundled under Amendment 9, one of four ballot initiatives that mashed together disparate items, reported the Associated Press. Amendment 9 was conceived “under the auspices of clean water and clean air,” wrote Florida’s Pensacola News Journal.


The measure passed with 69 percent voting in favor and 31 percent voting against, with all precincts reporting.

The amendment bans oil and gas exploration three miles into the Atlantic Ocean and nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico. It only pertains to state-controlled waters (as opposed to waters under federal jurisdiction), and doesn’t prohibit the transport of oil and gas through either zone.

Florida already prohibits the granting of oil and gas drilling leases in coastal waters. But a constitutional ban on drilling and exploration is considered to be more of a permanent protection.

Environmental organizations were predictably pleased with the results. The oil industry has long sought access to Florida’s resource-rich waters, and in January President Donald Trump proposed to expand drilling off its coast. (Florida’s was later excluded after pushback from Governor Rick Scott.)

“This is great news for coastal communities and the clean, tourist-friendly beaches we depend on,” Sarah Gledhill, Florida field campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement on Tuesday. “By passing Amendment 9, Floridians are sending a loud message to President Trump that we oppose his reckless plan to expand offshore drilling.”

The amendment also bans the indoor use of “vapor-generating electronic devices.” It will not, however, stop vaping inside of private residences or certain bars, vape shops, and hotels where smoking is allowed.


Amendment 9 “is an entirely anti-democratic measure,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit advocacy group, told me on the phone.

The measure “sends the false message to adult smokers that these products actually pose harms that are in any way comparable to cigarette smoke,” Conley said. He claimed that attaching the ban to an offshore-drilling measure ensured it would pass.

Nearly a dozen states have passed their own vaping bans, and whether they’re a good or bad thing is still up for debate. The industry has historically been underregulated (though the FDA regulated it in 2016), and critics say the biggest danger lies in vaping offshoots such as Juul, which targets teens.

And while vaping is (so far) demonstrably less dangerous than smoking—and perhaps not by a huge margin—it can still be dangerous to human health by way of toxic chemicals that flavor e-liquid.

What’s less clear is vaping’s environmental footprint. “Vaping is much better for the environment than cigarette butts lying around the beach,” Conley said.

It’s true that vapes could reduce litter, especially devices that can be used multiple times. However, Juul and similar products may generate a not-insignificant amount of e-waste, as they’re onerous to recycle. The results of a 2017 study by Harvard University researchers also suggest that vaping emissions could be a source of environmental pollution.

Amendment 9 was proposed by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, a commission that forms once every 20 years to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot, reported Mother Jones last month. The pairing of measures was meant to simplify the ballot.

While the measure exceeded the number of votes needed to pass, it wasn’t without controversy. ”Our concern for the environment overrides our concern about putting vaping in the Constitution,” Florida League of Women Voters said in its endorsement of Amendment 9.

“It makes no sense to the average voter why they were put together,” University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Another similarly constructed Florida amendment paired the issue of college fees with first responder and military death benefits.