TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough Commissioners voted Wednesday to raise the legal age for vaping in the county to 21.

The decision came after some opposition from those who say the law doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t include tobacco products as well.

USF Professor Javier Cuevas, who has dedicated more than 35 years of his life to studying the detrimental effects of tobacco, told commissioners for him – it’s personal, not just professional.

“My oldest son now has started vaping. And this is extremely hard for a father to see,” said Cuevas. “Knowing that I may end up outliving my son."

Cuevas was joined by several members of the American Heart Association who surprisingly asked the Hillsborough Commission to hold off on a bill raising the vaping age in Hillsborough to 21 unless it included tobacco.

“One of the things that I’ve learned in my research is that once you’re addicted to nicotine, you will find whatever you can to deal with that fix that you need,” said Cuevas. “So, if you don’t have access to vaping, you’re not going to turn to tobacco. So, we’re going to replace one problem with an even bigger problem.”

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Despite that dire warning, the county’s lawyers told commissioners that state law restricts what they can do when it comes to tobacco.

That same law, however, does not specifically apply to vaping.

So, commissioners decided to move forward, voting unanimously to raise the vaping age to 21 while leaving the door open to more.

“I just want to remind you that ordinances can always be amended at future times,” said Commissioner Stacy White.

The new law is aimed squarely at curbing the vaping epidemic among teenagers. Nearly one in four Florida high school students admits to using e-cigarette devices.

The new law sets fines between $25 and $100 for anyone who sells vaping products to those under 21.

It also penalizes those under age who are caught using them.

Several counties have considered similar ordinances but have decided to hold-off until the legislature takes up the vaping issue in January.

Florida lawmakers are expected to raise the vaping age to 21 statewide, but Hillsborough commissioners said they did not want to wait that long or risk the possibility that the proposal would get derailed at the state level.

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