A Florida Senator has sponsored SB 1288 and if it passes, the legal age to purchase tobacco products and electronic vaping products would increase from 18 to 21. Another bill, HB 1029, was filed in the House. As of December 1, 2017, the states of Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Maine, and Oregon have all raised their tobacco age as have 280 municipalities across the U.S.
Why is it important to raise the tobacco age? According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Surgeon General, “more than 1,200 people die from smoking in the U.S. and for each death, at least two teens or young adults become regular smokers each day.” Almost 90% of these replacement smokers start before turning 18. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that “each day more than 3,200 youth aged 18 or younger smoke their first cigarette and an additional 2,100 youth and young adults become daily cigarette smokers.”
The longer we can keep tobacco and nicotine products out of the hands of our youth, the better the chance that they will not become tobacco users. The measure will help save lives by reducing the rates of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and COPD, the top four diseases caused by smoking. Keeping our youth from starting a deadly, lifelong addiction to nicotine will also reduce the lost productivity and the burden of health care due to tobacco-related diseases for our state which is estimated to be almost $17 billion each year.
Selling to underage consumers would mean a fine up to $500 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for a second offense. Underage youth with tobacco or vaping products risk 20 hours of community service for the first offense and 40 hours for a second offense within a year.
One reason the bill may not make it into law is that it would mean less tobacco tax revenue; however, an increase in the tobacco tax, which hasn’t increased since 2009, would easily solve the problem.
The bill will go into consideration on January 9 when lawmakers meet again. Thank you to Sen. David Simmons, who sponsored SB1288, and Rep. Don Hahnfeldt who filed HB1029.
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