Law proposed to raise smoking age to 21 in Florida

Posted at 10:48 PM, Feb 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-28 23:53:59-05

The days of a recent high school grad enjoying a celebratory cigar could be coming to an end in Florida.

If a local state lawmaker gets her way, the legal age to buy tobacco will be 21.  Right now, you have to be 18 to buy cigarettes, vaporizers or chewing tobacco.

Two local tobacco and smoking business owners say not only will this law not help in getting younger people to stop smoking, it’s hypocritical.

“I think it’s absurd,” Abe Debeneh, owner of cigar shop and bar, Smoke Inn says. “Meanwhile we can send these people at 18 years-old to go and defend our country and put their lives at risk and yet we’re worried about them enjoying a cigar.”

Senator Darryl Rouson from St. Petersburg and Representative Lori Berman from Lantana jointly filed the bill Tuesday, saying it will help cut back on Florida’s leading cause of preventable death: tobacco use.

“We know that when children start young, they get addicted and they become addicted for life,” Berman says.

Pushing the age back, the lawmakers say, would help deter young people from starting a nicotine habit early, with many influenced by effective marketing.

Scott Schlein, owner of Interstate 710 Vapes says what he sells, is part of the solution, not the problem.

“Just because it has flavors, doesn’t mean it’s directed toward kids. It’s just to help you get off cigarettes,” Schlein says. “Kids are going to be kids.  They’re going to look for (cigarettes) one way or another.”

If passed, Florida would become the 3rd state to raise the age to 21.  Berman said she would consider an exemption for this law if you were in the military.