David Simmons files bill to raise smoking age to 21, also targets e-cigarettes

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Florida would become the 19th state to raise its smoking age to 21.

Sen. David Simmons is once again seeking to raise the minimum smoking age in the state to 21.

He has filed a new version of his “Tobacco 21 Act,” or T21.

Simmons attempted to shepherd the bill through the Legislature last Session. The Senate approved Simmons’ measure, by the House ultimately killed the bill.

“I think it would be difficult in the House to move the age for smoking,” Speaker José Oliva said regarding the bill sputtering in the House.

“I think that a lot of people feel in this chamber that 18 years is an adult, and adults should be able to make their own decisions,” added Oliva, who remains co-CEO of Oliva Cigar Co. after selling his family cigar company in 2016 to a European concern.

But Simmons is once again looking to push the issue, refiling the measure this week (SB 810).

The 2020 version of the bill once again looks to raise the purchasing age for e-cigarettes, vape pens and any other “electronic smoking device” to 21 as well.

Cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff would also be among the traditional tobacco products covered by the act.

In addition, the purchasing age would be raised to 21 for individuals looking to buy a “component, part, or accessory” for a product used to smoke tobacco. That includes “filters, rolling papers, blunt or hemp wraps, and pipes.”

Heather Youmans, the Senior Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said her group is in favor of the bill.

“If passed by the Florida Legislature, SB 810 will reduce youth access to all tobacco products including e-cigarettes and cigars and protect the health of all of Florida’s young people including members of the military and first responders,” Youmans said.

“With Florida ranked as the second leading state for new cancer diagnoses, our state continues to fall short on tobacco control. It’s time for the Florida Legislature to do its part to prevent lifelong addiction by rejecting the interests of Big Tobacco and raising the age of sale to 21 for all tobacco products including e-cigarettes.”

Those who violate the law by selling a tobacco product to a person under the age of 21 are subject to a minimum fine of $500 on a first offense. If a second offense occurs within a three-year period, another minimum fine of $750 is issued and the seller is barred from selling tobacco products for seven days.

If a second offense occurs within a three-year period, those penalties rise to a minimum $1,000 fine and a 30-day ban. For a fourth offense in the three-year window, that $1,000 minimum fine stands but the minimum ban on tobacco sales rises to three years.

If the bill is successful this time around, Florida would become the 19th state to raise its smoking age to 21.

“While the American Heart Association has endorsed T21 efforts in general, the association accused the tobacco industry of including provisions in the House and Senate proposals that ‘ruined’ the bills,” the News Service of Florida reported earlier this year.

Last year’s effort was backed by e-cigarette giant, JUUL Labs, owned by Altria, the parent company of cigarette maker Philip Morris USA. It was pushing Tobacco 21, in part in an attempt to keep federal regulators at bay.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]

One comment

  • Sonja Emily Fitch

    November 8, 2019 at 6:11 am


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