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Senators Support Raising Minimum Smoking Age

Lit Cigarette
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A Senate committee on Monday approved a bill that would increase the minimum smoking age in the state from 18 to 21. 

The proposal (SB 1618), filed by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would increase the minimum age to legally possess tobacco products and would include electronic smoking devices in the definition of tobacco.

The inclusion of electronic smoking devices caused some members of the public to trek to Tallahassee to publicly oppose the bill.

While smoking rates have declined in the United States, e-cigarette use has dramatically increased since 2014. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has called youth use of e-cigarettes an epidemic and indicated that youth e-cigarette use is up 77 percent from last year.

Alachua County commissioners in January unanimously agreed to raise the tobacco-buying age in the county to 21. Seven states have increased the smoking age: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine and Massachusetts, and, effective July 1, Virginia.

Florida lawmakers have considered raising the smoking age in the past, but the idea has not been approved. It was backed Monday by the Senate Health Policy Committee but could face trouble in the coming weeks.

Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said he despises smoking and the effects of second-home smoke. But Bean said he opposed the bill because “we have to let kids and adults make their own decisions.” A House version (HB 1041) has not been heard in committees.