TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lawmakers from both houses of the Florida state legislature have introduced bills to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
If passed, Florida will join five other states—Oregon, New Jersey, Maine, California and Hawaii—that have increased their minimum purchase age to 21.
State Sen. David Simmons (R) is sponsoring SB 1288, which would increase the minimum legal age from 18 to 21 to buy cigarettes, tobacco chew and electronic vaping devices and products, the newspaper reported.
“Raising the age limit for smoking to 21 years is essential if we are serious about saving lives and reducing the cost of healthcare,” he said in a statement. “In addition to the tragedy to smokers and their families caused by lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and emphysema, cigarette smoking burdens America’s healthcare system by nearly $170 billion annually in direct medical care for adults, according to the Center for Disease Control.”
If the bill passes, the penalty would be 20 hours of community service for a first offense, and 40 hours for a second offense within a year. Retailers who sell tobacco to underage consumers would be fined up to $500 for a first offense, and up to $1,000 for a second offense.
A similar bill, HB 1029, was filed in the House by State Rep. Don Hahnfeldt (R), who estimated it would save nearly $17 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity that results from tobacco-related diseases in Florida alone.
State and local lawmakers nationwide have been mulling over whether to raise the legal age of purchasing tobacco products from the federal minimum of 18 to 21, with recent activity happening in Onondaga County, N.Y., and San Antonio. In both cases, public hearings have taken place, with lawmakers close to making final decisions.
As of Oct. 31, 2017, about 240 municipalities had increased their legal age to buy tobacco to 21, according to Tobacco21.org.