Florida lawmakers could raise legal smoking age to 21

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Capitol News Service) - Ten students gathered in the State Capitol, holding signs with real life examples of how smoking has affected people.

Dee Ann Smith started smoking when she was 17, but is now 17 years cigarette free.

“I’ve had cancer. I have asthma. I see a cardiologist and a lipidologist regularly and all of that is a result of me smoking,” Smith said.

Smith, along with other anti-smoking advocates were in the Capitol, pushing to raise the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.

“I don’t want anybody else to have to go through that,” Smith said.

Studies show half of 8th graders say it’s easy to get cigarettes. The American Heart and Stroke Associations says the current legal age means younger kids have access to the products through schoolmates and older siblings.

“And if we’re able to break that cycle because they’re afraid to deal with a 21-year-old," Rivers H. Buford III with the American Heart and Stroke Associations said, "then we’ll keep the cigarettes out of the hands of younger children longer.”

The five states that have raised the legal age have seen a decrease in tobacco use. Despite success stories, the Legislation hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing in either chamber.

The Senate blames the House for the bill failing to gain traction.

“There are no bills moving in the House on this," Senator Travis Hutson, (R) Palm Coast, said. "If it’s already dead it’d be a waste of the committee’s time.”

Advocates point the finger at the 67 lobbyists representing tobacco companies in Florida’s Capitol.

A CDC report found three out of four Americans support raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21. The same report found seven out of ten smokers also approve of raising the age.