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Should Florida raise the legal smoking age to 21?

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(Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In Florida, you must be 21 to legally imbibe. But if some state lawmakers get their way, that may also soon be the case for anyone who smokes cigarettes, chews tobacco or vapes. 

State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, is backing a bill that would ban those younger than 21 from buying tobacco -- and vendors from selling to them.

Supporters contend the legislation would help save lives, cut down on tobacco-related illnesses and ultimately bring the cost of healthcare down.

SB 1288, also known as the Tobacco 21 Act, was filed Monday, hours after a companion bill with similar language was introduced in the state House of Representatives.

READ: SB 1288

In short, the measure would impose a non-criminal penalty of 20 hours of community service for a user's first offense, with a second offense in the same year resulting in a 40-hour penalty.

Meanwhile, stores caught violating those rules would face fines up to $500. The fines would not exceed $1,000 for a second violation.

If Florida adopted the bill, it would join a handful of states -- California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon -- that have already raising the legal smoking age to 21.

Those who spoke with News4Jax are split on the legislation. While some believe it would underscore the dangers of tobacco use, others say it's unnecessary regulation.

"I would say it would be fantastic because I think that there's so many negative effects of smoking that perhaps an 18-year-old or 16-year-old doesn't know about," said Monica Ash.

Not everyone is convinced it would persuade young people to make healthier choices.

"I think it's a poor decision by lawmakers just to restrict people. Again, if they want to smoke at 18, it's bad for you either way, so I don't think it's really going to do much," Josiah Hedges said.

N'digo Figures, a mother of three, said she doesn't think the bill would change anyone's mindset. In fact, she fears it may tempt rebellious teens to take up the habit.

"It's going to make them go get it more," Figures said.


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