Raising of legal age to buy tobacco, vapes concern smoke shop owners

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A big change is coming for those who smoke and vape. It’s a change that has smoke shop owners concerned.

In just months, a new federal law will raise the age people can buy tobacco and vaping products to 21 years of age.

The goal: to help teens quit vaping and smoking. Advocates believe that by raising the age to 21, that would prevent e-cigarette-related health concerns.

For Frank Urbano, business here in South Fort Myers is booming.

He owns Smokin’ Frank’s Smoke and Vape Shop on San Carlos Boulevard. He’s just one of the many businesses bringing vaping to the map in Southwest Florida.

“I’m fortunate enough to be able to get the people off of the cigarettes and onto a vape,” Urbano said.

But health officials say vaping is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.

On Friday, President Trump signed a major spending deal. In it, a measure that would raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Urbano says he’s all for it.

“I think they should have done it a long time ago,” he said. “What they need to do if they are really interested in fixing the problem is banning the nicotine, which will be cigarettes, which will be vape and I promise everybody I’ll be the first person to close my doors.”

But he knows it’s not likely to happen. As for his business, he says it would probably affect 20% of his profit, but it won’t take a big hit.

“Our clientele by Fort Myers Beach is a lot more of the 30-year-olds up to many 50, 60, 70-year-olds,” Urbano said.

The president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids put out a written statement Monday also calling for the ban of flavored e-cigarettes. He says until that is done, it won’t stop the youth e-cigarette epidemic.

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