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Smoking bill passes panel

A tobacco licensing bill designed to crack down on sales to underage smokers overcame intense industry lobbying and won a Senate committee's approval Monday.

The bill that cleared the Commerce Committee 10-2 also would restrict cigarette vending machines to establishments licensed to sell hard liquor.

The committee approved the bill 8-2 on Jan. 23, but then retained it.

"Today the kids won. It's tobacco vs. the kids," said Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, who is sponsor of a companion bill in the House.

The licensing provision would allow the state to suspend or revoke the permits of retailers who violate an existing law by selling tobacco products to minors under 18.

The Senate sponsor, Sen. John Grant, R-Tampa, said he has never seen lobbyists try to kill a measure as the tobacco lobbyists had.

The legislation also is opposed by retailers who contend the measure would be too costly and create too much red tape.

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