The vaping epidemic among teens in Florida is out of control, and Alachua County is trying to do their part to keep tobacco and vaping products out of the hands of minors by approving a county-wide ordinance to raise the tobacco age to 21. But it doesn’t stop there.
A “distribution license” will now be required by each retailer for each location tobacco is sold. These licenses are good for one year. New retailers are prohibited from selling tobacco at a location within 1,000 feet of a public K-12 school. While current retailers near schools will still be allowed to sell tobacco, they must adhere to the age limit.
Violations will also be stricter. A single violation receives a seven-day license suspension. If a second violation occurs within a 24-month period, a 30-day suspension takes place. A third violation in the same time period results in a 90-day suspension and a fourth violation in the time period means the license is revoked with no option to reapply. Signs must also be posted saying “No person under the age of 21 may be sold tobacco products.” With the number of minors able to purchase tobacco and vaping products, it is clear that not all retailers were adhering to the law prohibiting sales to those under 18. One local tobacco retailer in Alachua County applauded the measure. He said he doesn’t sell the Juul product and has “a problem with idiot store owners who sell Juuls to kids who’ve never even had a cigarette before.”
Tobacco Free Alachua representatives have been working on this for two years and updating commissioners every few months on the national Tobacco 21 initiative “aimed at raising the minimum legal age for tobacco and nicotine sales in the U.S.”
Florida is a pre-emptive state meaning counties or communities cannot enact a law that is stronger than that at state level, but they can pass ordinances. Although the ordinance doesn’t takes effect for 9 months, Alachua County may see the effects on the next tobacco survey given in the spring of 2020.
Congratulations to Alachua County for putting the health of their youth first.
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