'Tobacco 21' proposal in Florida goes up in smoke

Posted at 11:20 AM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 11:21:49-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-- The Florida Legislature won’t pass a proposal to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21, House Speaker José Oliva told reporters Wednesday, a day after the Senate signed off on the measure.

Florida is one of several states that have considered legislation supporting an issue known as “Tobacco 21,” or T21, backed by e-cigarette giant, JUUL Labs.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved its version of the bill (SB 1618) on Tuesday, sending the proposal to the House for consideration.

Both chambers’ measures include a “pre-emption” provision that would ban local governments from passing ordinances dealing with the age to purchase tobacco or vaping products. And both plans would exclude members of the military from the age restrictions. But, speaking to reporters after a floor session Wednesday, Oliva said the issue is dead. “I think it would be difficult in the House to move the age for smoking,” the Miami Lakes Republican said. “I think that a lot of people feel in this chamber that 18 years is an adult, and adults should be able to make their own decisions.”

Federal health officials have linked JUUL’s exponential growth --- its market share tripled in just one year --- to the skyrocketing increase in youngsters’ e-cigarette use.

JUUL, owned in part by Altria, the parent company of cigarette maker Philip Morris USA, is pushing Tobacco 21 as it tries to keep federal regulators at bay.

While the American Heart Association has endorsed T21 efforts in general, the association accused the tobacco industry of including provisions in the House and Senate proposals that “ruined” the bills.