TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Legislation moving at the capitol would increase the minimum smoking age in Florida from 18 to 21.
A proposal set to be heard in a Senate committee Tuesday would also include electronic smoking devices in the definition of tobacco, as state statistics show nearly 25 percent of high schoolers currently vape.
Members of the military who are not yet 21 would be exempt from the increase.
State Representative Jackie Toledo is sponsoring the measure in the House, where the bill has passed its committees and is ready to be taken up by the full chamber.
She says 95 percent of smokers start the habit before age 21.
“I am outraged that this is happening. Vaping has become socially acceptable and accessible. This bill can change that, at least in our schools," said Toledo.
While not speaking directly to the legislation, Laura Corbin with Tobacco Free Florida, the state-funded anti-smoking campaign, says e-cigarettes are especially appealing to young people.
“Youth are especially attracted to the flavors that these products come in. We also know that these products typically contain nicotine. In fact, one Juul pod contains as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes," said Corbin.
Pushback to the legislation comes from Libertarian lawmakers, vape shop owners and others who say the plan will criminalize many 18 to 20 years, who will likely continue smoking or using e-cigarettes illegally.
Another controversial portion of the House legislation would require medical marijuana patients under age 21 get approval from pediatricians, before smoking their medicine.
If Florida lawmakers are able to come to agreement on the bills, Florida would join more than a half dozen other states that have increased the smoking age to 21.