California has passed legislation raising its smoking age from 18 to 21 for most of its citizens. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a series of bills which also place new restrictions on where people can smoke and the sale of electronic cigarettes.
“These laws will save countless lives, reduce astronomical costs to the health care system, and cost very little because it uses existing enforcement mechanisms,” said Senator Ed Hernandez, who authored the bill to raise the age of tobacco products. “Today was an enormous victory for not only this generation, but also for many generations to come who will not suffer the deadly impacts of tobacco.”
The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (the group’s advocacy affiliate), the American Lung Association and the president of the California Medical Association all expressed support for the new law.
The initial bill made it illegal for everyone under the age of 21 to buy tobacco products, but some argued if 18-year-olds can be drafted or volunteer to fight and die for their country, they should be allowed to buy tobacco products.
A stipulation was later added to exempt active duty military personnel 18 and over.
Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise their smoking age on January 1, following the lead of more than 100 cities, including San Francisco, Boston and New York.
The new laws also ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under 21 and restricts where they can be used in public places. That stipulation was swiftly condemned by the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, which called the limitations to vapor products, some of which contain no tobacco, “counterproductive to public health.”
“California took a step backwards today by reclassifying vapor products as tobacco,” it said. “Our industry, which was built by former smokers that morphed into small-and mid-sized businesses, has always supported sensible legislation, such as prohibitions on selling to minors, reasonable licensing requirements and child-resistant packaging.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in October strongly urging states to raise the smoking age to 21 and more heavily regulate e-cigarettes. A study from the Institute of Medicine estimates that setting the minimum age at 21 nationwide, would result in nearly a quarter-million fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer among people born between 2000 and 2019.