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House panel approves licensing of tobacco dealers

Legislation for licensing tobacco retailers to crack down on illegal sales to people under 18 was approved by a House committee Friday. But its prospects in the Senate remained uncertain.

The House Finance and Taxation Committee voted 22-3 for the bill, sending it to the Appropriations Committee.

The measure would put teeth into enforcement by allowing the state to suspend or revoke the licenses of retailers who sell to underage smokers.

A companion bill by Sen. John Grant, R-Tampa, has been bottled up in the Senate Commerce Committee for nearly three weeks but is scheduled for reconsideration Monday.

Retailers contend the legislation would be too much of an administrative and financial burden. The tobacco industry claims provisions to ban cigarette vending machines from most businesses would cost the state $30-million in tax revenue.