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Rise in Teen Vaping Rates Boosts Momentum for Tobacco 21 Act

April 8th, 2019 by Jake Stofan

Between 2017 and 2018 e-cigarette use among middle and high school students rose nearly 50%.

The stats are alarming schools and lawmakers here in Florida, and the concern is fueling momentum for legislation that would raise the age to purchase tobacco products to 21.

One out of five Florida students vape.

High School Juniors Payton Fearington and Lexi Furtys don’t, but they say vaping is rampant among their peers.

“Probably everyone I know,” said Fearington.

“Probably almost everyone,” said Furtys.

Andrea Messina with the Florida School Boards Association says policing vaping on campuses is taking a toll on administrators.

“There’s been a number of suspensions related to it,” said Messina. “Nicotine on campus when we’ve got tobacco free zones creates discipline problems.”

There are also health concerns.

While e-cigarettes are often marketed as a safe alternative to traditional tobacco, recent studies have linked use to seizers in adolescents.

That has Florida lawmakers like Senator Bill Montford taking notice.

“It’s time for us to step up,” said Montford. “It comes down to a matter of, really a matter of life and death for these young people.”

Legislation that would raise the age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 is gaining momentum this year.

Mark Landreth with the American Heart & Lung Association says raising the age will make it harder for younger kids to access the products.

“If you don’t start the tobacco habit or the electronic cigarette habit by age 21, you’re 90% less likely to start it,” sad Landreth.

The Tobacco 21 Act is moving quickly through the Senate, but in the House it hasn’t been scheduled for a single hearing.

Similar legislation around the country have been picking up speed.

Just since the start of session in March, laws to raise the smoking age to 21 have passed in Washington and Illinois.

If the legislation passes here, Florida would be the 11th state to raise the smoking age.

Health advocates and education leaders say in addition to raising the age to purchase e-cigarettes, a higher emphasis needs to be put on educating young people about vaping’s negative health effects.

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