Tampa lawmaker pushes for raising age to buy vaping products

A Florida lawmaker from the Bay Area wants to make it harder for teenagers to get their hands on vaping products by raising the legal age to purchase them.

Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Hillsborough County) announced her proposal during a news conference Thursday at Tampa General Hospital. The new age limit would also apply to tobacco products.

"I believe there is no debate here. Keeping our children safe is paramount and something everyone should support. Failure to do so will bring tragic consequences," Toledo said in a news release prior to the event.

According to the Florida Department of Health, one in four high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2018.

Toledo was joined by Dr. David Wein, Medical Director at TGH, who talked about the medical risks associated with e-cigarette use.

"Unfortunately there's a perception that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative and they're clearly not safe," said Dr. Wein. "What's happening is that this is an opportunity for younger people to become addicted to nicotine and then move onto cigarettes."

Toledo's proposal would also mirror a plan announced Wednesday by President Trump to ban flavored vaping products, which are increasingly popular among teenagers.

That piece of this legislation that, according to workers in the e-cig industry, could be devastating.

"As a knee-jerk reaction, it was pretty alarming," said Griffen Weeks, who works at Purely Vapor in Tampa. "I would say about 98 percent of the stuff we have is flavored in some way, shape or form and if the ban on flavors takes effect, then we're going to be out 98 percent of our inventory and that's probably going to be a pretty brutal blow to the business." 

Weeks said he doesn't sell to underage customers. The people who visit Purely Vapor, according to Weeks, are mostly people who want to use e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking.

"It's a shame that we get looped in with cigarettes when we're trying to kind of stop exactly what they're doing. Our whole thing is to be a safer product than cigarettes," he said.

Eight states and the District of Columbia currently have a 21-year-old vaping age limit.