Florida lawmakers consider raising smoking age to 21

Several bills in House, Senate take on smoking issue in committees

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor
FreeImages.com/Zsuzsa N.K.

Buying tobacco products could join the ranks of alcohol if lawmakers raise the minimum age in Florida.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida lawmakers could raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products if a number of bills making the rounds in the House and Senate make their way to the governor's desk.

A House bill (HB 7119) filed earlier this month and co-sponsored by a South Florida lawmaker seeks to raise the age limit to buy tobacco products, nicotine products or nicotine-dispensing devices from 18 to 21, except for active-duty military personnel.

The bill, which has the bipartisanship backing of state Reps. Nick Duran, D-Miami, and Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, has been referred to the Appropriations Committee for discussion Tuesday.

A Senate version (SB 1618) also includes e-cigarettes and vaping products in its definition of tobacco products but exempts cigars from the 21-or-older age requirement.

Of course, lawmakers could also go in a completely different direction. 

A separate House bill (HB 1299) would, among other things, keep the smoking age at 18 and prevent local municipalities from raising it. It would also prevent local governments from taxing tobacco or nicotine products.

The bill, which was filed last month, is now in the Commerce Committee.

Six states -- California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon -- have raised the minimum age for sale of tobacco products to 21, and five others -- Arkansas, Illinois, Virginia, Washington and Utah -- have passed laws that will take effect in the coming months and years, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

If any of the House bills were to become law, they would take effect in October. The Senate bill, if it became law, would take effect in July.

 

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