Colorado, Utah Propose 21 As Legal Age To Smoke; Florida Mulls E-Cig Ban For Minors

Following the lead of New York City’s former health cowboy — err, mayor Michael Bloomberg, two Western states changing how wild the West can be for anyone under 21: Colorado and Utah are both considering raising the legal age to smoke tobacco from 18 to 21. Meanwhile down in Florida, legislators are proposing banning e-cigarettes for minors.

Both Colorado and Utah voted favorably on proposals yesterday to treat tobacco like alcohol, reports the Associated Press, in an effort motivated by new research about how early smokers start smoking.

“By raising the age limit, it puts them in a situation where they’re not going to pick it up until a much later age,” said one Utah resident who testified in favor of the idea there.

A similar show went down in Colorado, where testimony stated that it would make it harder for teens to get into the habit and then perhaps lead to fewer adults smoking.

“What I’m hoping to do is make it harder for kids to obtain cigarettes,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, a Republican who sponsored the measure.

There are still more votes that will need to happen before either proposal becomes law. But this is a big move — they’d be the first states that have gone this far to cut down on smoking rates. New York City’s council voted last fall to up the smoking age to 21, but that is only a citywide rule.

Traveling back east and south to Florida, state lawmakers are making moves to keep electronic cigarettes out of teens’ hands. A Senate panel approved a proposal yesterday that wouldn’t allow anyone under 18 to buy the devices.

“We don’t allow minors to buy cigarettes,” Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, said, reports the Miami Herald. “We should certainly not allow minors to buy these products, as well.”

The bill has already done well in two other committees, winning unanimous support, so it could be among the first proposals heard on the Senate floor when the legislative session begins March 4.

Some municipalities have already outlawed the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, with Miami apparently headed that way as well.

“We became aware of the issue and felt we needed to start the discussion now, rather than waiting on the state,” Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez said. “Nicotine is an addictive substance.”

E-cigarettes are starting to earn a certain cachet among teens, apparently, perhaps partly because celebrities are often seen taking a toke off them. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the amount of middle and high school students using e-cigs had more than doubled in just one year, from 2011 to 2012.

“We think it’s time now that we drew the line in the sand, so children could not have access to those products and not develop those habits down the line,” Benacquisto said.

Proposed Florida law would ban sale of e-cigarettes to minors [Miami Herald]

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