The Florida legislature has passed a bill that would increase the state’s minimum age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21-years-old, aligning it with current federal law. It will now be sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis to be signed into law.
On Monday, it passed in the Senate 29-6, today the Florida House of Representatives approved it by a vote of 103-13.
Update (April 28, 2021) — The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill. The original story from April 26, 2021 is below.
Like the most recent attempt at increasing Florida’s minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21, S.B. 1080 is not without some controversy. The new law also includes a preemption statute that would restrict local counties and cities from passing their own tobacco-related restrictions regarding the sale and marketing of tobacco products and e-cigarettes, instead, it would leave those laws up to the state. This has caused some anti-tobacco advocates to oppose the bill.
In addition, S.B. 1080 would create a nicotine permit—different than the state’s tobacco permit—which sellers of e-cigarettes would be required to obtain; of note, this permit would be free.
One interesting note is that S.B. 1080 includes an exemption to the 21-year-old minimum age to purchase tobacco products to those serving in the military. It’s unclear how this would functionally work, as anyone under the age of 21—including those serving in the military—would be violating federal law by purchasing tobacco products. The question of military exemptions is something that was repeatedly brought up in hearings on the federal statute before it was signed into law by Donald Trump as part of a large spending bill.
States like Florida have been motivated to increase their minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 since Trump signed the federal standard into law in December 2019. While the federal law is already in effect, in many states, it’s not able to be enforced by local law enforcement until the state—or local municipalities—change their laws to match the federal law.
S.B. 1080 now moves to the Florida House of Representatives. There is another bill, H.B. 987, that was introduced earlier in the session that would also increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21. That bill is notably different as it does not include the preemption language and actually would remove the language that allows for the military exemption. It has been read in committee but has not made it to a floor vote.
Last year, the Florida legislature passed a bill—S.B. 810—which would have increased the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and also banned flavored vaping products. Despite passing the legislature by health margins, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the bill because he believed that banning the flavored vaping products would lead to people purchasing them on the black market.