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Youths buy cigarettes at Capitol

Published Oct. 10, 2005

It's easy to buy cigarettes, several teens say. Even in the Capitol, where the law making it illegal to sell to anyone under 18 was written.

"I bought some cigarettes, we all did, in the cafeteria vending machine," Mary Elizabeth Paulet, 15, said Thursday.

Fourteen-year-old Ryan Dougherty and 15-year-old Fritz Ruhe said she found it hard to believe that underage teens could buy cigarettes in the Capitol.

"I was kind of shocked that you could just walk up where the laws are made in the Capitol . . . to a machine, pull a thing and just walk out with a pack of cigarettes, security guards standing all around, no problem," Ruhe said.

Florida law bans selling cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 but does not make it a crime for youngsters to buy cigarettes.

Five Tampa-area teens, in town on a trip organized by the Hillsborough Parent Teacher Association, said they acted on their own initiative after seeing a video made by Rep. Lois Frankel.

The tape showed teens walking out of stores with cigarettes they had just purchased.

Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, had proposed raising the age for sale of tobacco products to 21, licensing merchants and limiting vending machines to where alcohol is sold.

The proposals have been amended to leave the current age but retain the licensing requirement.

Frankel said the teen's actions prove the point that the law forbidding the sale of tobacco products to children needs more teeth.