Barry Hummel: Bill would give kids easier access to tobacco
Big Tobacco is back in Tallahassee, pulling strings behind the scenes to make sure that kids in Florida will have easier access to tobacco.
You may be scratching your head and asking yourself how this can be possible, given that Florida has become a leader in tobacco prevention through its highly successful Tobacco Free Florida campaign.
It starts with the following fact: 85 percent of new tobacco users start between the ages of 12 and 17, before it is even legal to possess and use tobacco. Kids make the choice to use tobacco, not adults. Preventing kids from becoming addicted at a very young age is significantly the reducing market share of the tobacco industry.
Over the last 15 years, youth tobacco use in Florida has dropped to historic lows. This has been driven by a tobacco prevention program that is actually funded by penalties paid to Florida by the tobacco industry as part of an $11.7 billion dollar lawsuit settlement in 1997.
This has made the tobacco industry in Florida openly aggressive as it looks for ways to make the program less effective.
Which brings us to the 2014 Florida legislative session.
Bills introduced in both the House and Senate, designed to restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes and highly addictive liquid nicotine to minors, have quickly been railroaded by tobacco industry lobbyists to increase youth access to tobacco.