Florida Senate approves bill to raise minimum smoking age

Heydi Ortiz, News Editor

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There are a lot of things you can do once you turn 18. You can purchase lottery tickets, you can vote, you can smoke – or perhaps not anymore. Lawmakers in Florida have approved a bill that will make smoking and purchasing tobacco, e-cigarette and vaping products at the age of 18 illegal in the state of Florida. The minimum age will be raised to 21.

But, lawmakers are willing to make one exception when it comes to this bill.

As it stands, house bill (HB7119) will raise the limit to 21, with the exemption of active military personnel – and there’s more. The bill will prevent cities from coming up with their own age requirement for tobacco products and local regulations on tobacco sales and marketing. The bill will also require patients who use medical marijuana under the age of 21 to get parental consent.

This is all with the surprising support of large tobacco companies like Altria which received warnings from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who attempted to cut down on e-cigarette usage among minors after tobacco companies allegedly began targeting young adults through flavored e-cigarette and vape juices.

In response to the Food and Drug Administration fining and sending warnings to 1,300 retailers for selling minors vaping products, Juul and Altria have publicly supported raising the minimum smoking age to 21.

The push for restrictions on the sale of tobacco or tobacco related products has been the topic of the Florida Senate, as not just cigarettes are in question.

Senator Debbie Mayfield has filed for legislation that will allow law enforcement to ensure that tobacco products are only being sold to patrons who are 18 years old or older. Currently, retailers that sell e-cigarettes or vapes do not have to comply with the same regulations that tobacco retailers do. The bill will also finally allow Tobacco Free Florida to raise awareness about the increasing use of popular nicotine devices and their negative health effects.

“Vaping and E-cigarette use among our youth has reached epidemic levels. Now it is time to protect our young people from all tobacco products,” said Senator Mayfield.

This is true considering the fact that in 2018, 16 percent of Florida’s youth (ages 11 to 17) and 25 percent of high schoolers in Florida reported that they currently vaped, according to a survey done by the Florida Department of Health.

Still, the percentage of youth that say they are committed to never using cigarettes is 86.3%, meaning there may be hope for future generations who could potentially be more educated about the use of tobacco related products or nicotine devices.

So, if you’re under the age of 21 and planning on buying your next Juul cart remember that soon there could be a day when smoking will have to be another thing to add to the list of having to wait three more years for.

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