House panel approves proposal that would prevent local bans on certain types of sunscreens, cosmetics

A House panel on Wednesday approved a proposal that would prevent local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens and cosmetics, despite pushback from Democrats who contended the measure is a “knee-jerk” effort by lawmakers to limit local control.

Rep. Spencer Roach, a North Fort Myers Republican who is sponsoring the bill (HB 113), said it would prevent Key West from enforcing a ban on sunscreens that contain chemicals believed to be harmful to coral reefs.

Key West is the only city in Florida that has voted for a ban on sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which studies have found can contribute to coral bleaching. But Roach pointed to peer-reviewed studies compiled this year by the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability that show the chemicals have negative effects on coral reefs when exposed to “concentration levels generally not observed in nature.”

Roach, R-Fort Myers, argued skin cancer is a threat to people who live and visit Florida and that sunscreen use should be encouraged.

“The science that is real is melanoma,” he said. “We want to be the Sunshine State, not the Melanoma State.”

The House Health Quality Subcommittee approved the bill. But Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, and Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, opposed the proposal because they said they want to protect home rule and want to wait to see if more conclusive data becomes available about whether the chemicals contribute to coral bleaching.

“I think that this preemption of local government is extremely knee-jerk in nature,” Smith said. “Maybe we shouldn’t base a preemption on inconclusive data.”

Roach said his bill would also prohibit local governments from passing ordinances to ban the sale of cosmetics, which could include things like makeup, shampoos, deodorants or skin moisturizers.

“For me, the bigger picture seems to be about local control, and I see that only one area in the entire state has decided to ban these products,” Stark said.

A Senate committee Monday approved a bill (SB 172) that is identical to Roach’s measure. That could indicate lawmakers are fast-tracking the proposals ahead of the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.