The House has approved a measure to raise the smoking age in Florida to 21, aligning it with federal law, preparing the bill for Gov. Ron DeSantis to act on.
The bill (SB 1080) passed the House 103-13 Wednesday, two days after it passed the Senate 29-9.
Lawmakers last year had bundled that proposal with a measure to regulate vaping products. However, DeSantis vetoed the bill, arguing that limiting the available vaping flavors reduced ways for smokers to wean themselves off cigarettes, which he argued are more dangerous.
However, lawmakers this year limited the bill’s vaping regulations, which Senate sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican, predicted would alleviate the Governor’s concerns.
The proposal empowers the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco with broader oversight on the marketing, sale, or delivery of tobacco or nicotine products.
In December 2019, then-President Donald Trump signed a measure raising the federal sales age for tobacco and nicotine to 21. More than 550 local governments and 33 states currently limit tobacco sales to those 21 and older.
Further, vendors would be required to get a new nicotine permit. While a tobacco permit costs $50, the new nicotine permits would be free.
Hutson’s proposal makes an exception for military service members below the age of 21.
Throughout the committee process, the bill and House companion have received considerable pushback from several organizations including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
When DeSantis shot the related legislation down last year, it had received acclaim from Attorney General Ashley Moody.
“While originally conceived as a bill to rate the legal age to buy tobacco to 21, (which is superfluous given this is already mandated by federal law) … SB 810 effectively bans tobacco-free vaping flavors used by hundreds of thousands of Floridians as a reduced-risk alternative to cigarettes, which are more dangerous,” DeSantis wrote in his veto transmission letter.
If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.