California bills to raise smoking age to 21

Early last month, the California Senate approved SB 151 that would raise the minimum legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21. This was done as part of an effort to reduce smoking amongst youngsters.

The bill was introduced by Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) over the fact that an estimation of 90% of tobacco users start before the age of 21. Raising the age bar would limit the usage by teenagers. His view was based on a study by the Institute of Medicine for the federal Food and Drug Administration, as per which raising the age bar for tobacco users would cut smoking by 12% more than the existing control policies.

The bill is being supported by many such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, as well four Republican senators – Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte, Ted Gaines of Roseville, Janet Nguyen of Garden Grove and Jeff Stone of Temecula.

Its opponents are the California Retailers Association, the Cigar Association of America and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. The Cigar Association is of the view that at 18, when people are eligible to vote, serve in the military and enter into contracts, they should also be able to make their own decisions on whether to take to smoking.

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 26 to 8 and the Assembly has referred to the Standing Committee on Governmental Organization. It was also set for a hearing on July 8th, which was however cancelled.[1] If signed into law, California could be among the first states in the nation to increase the smoking age to 21. A similar law has been proposed in Hawaii as well and is currently under consideration by the state’s governor.

Additionally, the Senate also considered SB 140 to place additional restrictions on e-cigarettes that are defined as tobacco products. This was too sent to the Assembly by a vote of 24-12. Under the new definition, e-cigarettes would be banned from the same “smoke-free” areas as traditional cigarettes, such as bars, restaurants, hospitals and other workplaces.

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