September 22, 2023

Alachua is the only Florida county to adopt the measure.
VyStar Memorial

Jacksonville-based VyStar Credit Union reached a $9.76-million deal with the city to rebrand the city's Veterans Memorial Arena as VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

A new building will have a common entrance for Baptist Medical and Wolfson Children's Hospital.

Photo: Rendering

Lauren DePaola recently opened Better Beginnings, a mental health center that specializes in treating pregnancy-related depression.

Northeast Florida Roundup

Smokeout: Alachua County bans tobacco sales to anyone under 21

Amy Martinez | 3/27/2019

Alachua County bans tobacco sales to anyone under 21.

Three years ago, anti-tobacco groups launched a national campaign to raise the legal age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21, hoping to make it harder for high schoolers to get cigarettes and vaping products.

Six states — California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon — and more than 430 localities nationwide now ban tobacco sales for anyone under 21.

In January, Alachua County followed suit, becoming the first Florida county to raise its tobacco age to 21. County commissioners voted unanimously for the measure.

The new ordinance, which takes effect in September, applies to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and requires tobacco vendors to get a distribution license, valid for a year. Stores that violate the ordinance will face a license suspension of up to 90 days; a fourth violation within a 24-month period will result in a revoked license and no option to reapply.

The law restricts tobacco sales, not use, meaning young adults caught buying or possessing tobacco face no penalties. Elsewhere, that distinction has provided the basis for legal challenges against similar ordinances. Late last year, convenience store owners in San Antonio sued to have the city’s 21-and-over rule declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it deprives them equal protection under federal and state laws.

While teen smoking rates have declined in the past decade, vaping — inhaling nicotine-spiked vapor through an electronic smoking device — has gained in popularity among young people. The most recent Florida Youth Tobacco Survey found that 15.1% of young people between ages 11 and 17 in Alachua County used e-cigarettes in 2018, up from 9.5% in 2016. Statewide, the trend was the same.


  • Jacksonville-based VyStar Credit Union reached a $9.76-million deal with the city to rebrand the city’s Veterans Memorial Arena as VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.


  • Former Centene executive Rone Baldwin became president and CEO of Jacksonville-based One Call, a worker’s compensation medical care management company. Baldwin replaced Dale Wolf, who retired.


  • Baptist Health will add a seven-story building to serve as a new entrance for both Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Five floors will be for Wolfson and will include a 75-bed neonatal intensive care center and a 26-bed pediatric intensive care unit. The building is to open in 2021.
  • UF Health’s Florida Recovery Center, which provides substance abuse treatment, added a building at its campus in Gainesville. The 9,000-sq.-ft. addition includes space for group therapy sessions, an auditorium and offices for patient consultations.
  • UF Health’s rehab hospital moved to a newly renovated building on Archer Road in Gainesville. The 50-bed hospital is for patients recovering from strokes, spinal cord and brain injuries, amputations, neurological disorders and other conditions.


  • Bangalore-based Hinduja Global Solutions, a business process management company, plans to create more than 400 jobs at a new customer service center in Jacksonville.
  • Jacksonville-based Dalton Agency, an advertising and public relations firm, acquired Anode, a Nashville-based digital marketing firm. Financial terms were not disclosed.


  • Gainesville-based law firm McCarty, Naim, Focks & Keeter merged with Eisinger Brown, a Hollywood-based firm that represents about 600 community associations statewide. Previously, the Gainesville firm’s founding partner, Mac McCarty, and partner Julie Naim had decided to wind down their practices. Peter Focks, now a partner at Eisinger Brown, will continue to manage the Gainesville office.


  • Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville applied to the American Bar Association to restructure as a non-profit. The school, owned by InfiLaw, opened in 1996.
  • The University of Florida spent $865 million on research in fiscal 2018, up 8% from $801 million in the previous year. Life sciences research, including health and agricultural research, accounted for $656 million.


  • Chicago-based Ecoco, a hair-products manufacturer, says it will create 150 jobs during the next four years at a new plant in Jacksonville. To attract the company, economic development officials offered $450,000 in city and state incentives.
  • American Technical Ceramics, an electronic parts manufacturer, will move its thin-film products group to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and lay off 92 workers in Jacksonville.


  • Former estate planning attorney Christina Kelcourse will lead a new North Florida chapter of the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce, a networking organization for people interested in green and sustainable business practices.


  • Sysco International Food Group plans to expand its Jacksonville warehouse from about 200,000 square feet to 312,000 square feet.


  • Pet boarding chain Pet Paradise moved to its new headquarters building in San Marco.
  • Ashco will build 22,000 square feet of new retail space at the River City Marketplace shopping center in Jacksonville.

Mental Health Care for Moms

Lauren DePaola, a licensed clinical social worker in Alachua, recently opened Better Beginnings, a mental health center that specializes in treating pregnancy-related depression. The center has a mother-baby partial hospitalization program in which women with more severe forms of perinatal depression attend treatment sessions up to five hours a day, five days a week. The center also offers yoga classes, acupuncture, massage and onsite childcare for patients during visits.


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