Vaping companies gird for possible change in smoking age

A new bill in the Florida Senate is igniting controversy.

Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) is sponsoring SB 1288, also known as “Tobacco 21 Act,” that would increase the minimum legal age from 18 to 21 to purchase tobacco products and electronic vaping devices.

The penalty would be 20 hours of community service for a first offense and 40 hours for a second offense, if it happened within the same year.

Vendors who sell to underage customers would receive a fine of up to $500 for first offense and up to $1,000 for a second.

MORE: Florida bill would raise age to buy tobacco products to 21

Some Southwest Florida residents feel the bill is an intrusion.

“You’re 18, I think you should be able to make your own decisions,” Hayden Goldham said.

Goldham works at one of many vape shops in Cape Coral, an industry that would be affected by the bill.

“We get a lot of teenagers in here who buy vape products,” Goldham said. “At least 30 percent of our customers are within 18, 19 range and it’s gonna take a lot of our business away.”

Ryan Madtes, manager at another vape store, says he saw this coming.

“A lot of states have already done it. A lot of the packaging on the juice bottles have already been labeled as 21 and older,” Madtes said. “I knew it was coming, but its just gonna hurt a little bit.”

California, New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii and Maine have already changed the minimum age to 21.

Other residents don’t believe there is a downside to the bill.

“I think it will be better for everybody in the long run, because it should reduce healthcare costs for all of us,” Cape Coral resident Rachel Breakfield said.

Lawmakers will consider the bill during their January legislative session.

Reporter:Taylor Bisacky