Bill aims to raise age to buy tobacco products to 21 in Florida

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (WSVN) - It is legal to buy cigarettes in Florida once you turn 18, but one state lawmaker wants to raise that minimum age.

Sen. David Simmons filed Senate Bill 1288 on Monday, which calls for raising the legal age to buy tobacco products. Like with alcohol, consumers would have to be 21 years old to purchase tobacco items, including e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or accessories such as filters and rolling papers.

“Raising the age limit for smoking to 21 years is essential if we are serious about saving lives and reducing the cost of health care,” Simmons said in a statement. “In addition to the tragedy to smokers and their families caused by lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and emphysema, cigarette smoking burdens America’s health care system by nearly $170 billion annually in direct medical care for adults, according to the Center for Disease Control.”

If passed, the law would punish those who are caught buying tobacco underage by having them perform community service hours. A first offense would have to serve 20 hours, while a second offense within the same year would get 40 hours.

Meanwhile, a vendor that sells to a person under the age of 21 would be subject to a $500 fine for a first-time offense, or a $1,000 fine for a second offense.

Anti-tobacco groups have been pushing to increase age restrictions on tobacco sales, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  They say raising the tobacco sale age would “significantly reduce” the number of teens and young adults who take up smoking.

The state legislature is set to consider SB1288 when the 2018 legislative session begins in January. If the bill passes, it would go into effect in October of next year, making Florida the sixth state in the country to raise the legal smoking age, following California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon.

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