Tobacco 21 passes Florida Senate

Published: Apr. 30, 2019 at 4:28 PM EDT
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

April 30, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- With a 33-6 vote, the Florida Senate passed legislation that would raise the age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes in the state.

It raises the age from 18 to 21, but a number of side issues and time are blocking final passage. Despite only three days remaining in the 2019 session, lawmakers say there is still hope for passing the Tobacco 21 Act.

House sponsor Rep. Nicholas Duran says the Senate’s latest proposal is an improvement over previous versions.

“They worked on some preemption language which was troubling for many folks,” said Duran. "I think they also removed the cigar exemption, which is something we never had on our side.”

While bill sponsors are optimistic, health advocates are still unhappy with the current product, primarily because it doesn’t reclassify e-cigarettes as tobacco products.

Mark Landreth with the American Heart Association says that means vaping products wont be subject to the same regulations as traditional tobacco.

“It's taxation and what you have to do in order to get a product approved by the FDA,” said Landreth.

Senate sponsor David Simmons says reclassifying e-cigarettes as tobacco would impose new regulations on vape businesses, and would have to be in a stand-alone bill.

“The only purpose for doing what we have done is to assure that this is going to meet constitutional standards,” said Simmons.

Health advocates also don’t like that the bill preempts local governments from setting their own age limits. Rep. Duran say it comes down to consistency.

“If we go to 21, we want to make sure it's 21. We don't want to have local governments go Tobacco 30 or Tobacco 25 later,” said Duran.

Now, all eyes turn to the House to see if it approves the Senate version of the bill before session ends Friday. If signed into law, Florida would become the 13th state to raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21.