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California Raises Smoking Age to 21 in an Effort to Save Lives

By Alexandra Gratereaux
Posted On May 09, 2016
California Raises Smoking Age to 21 in an Effort to Save Lives

These days it will be hard to spark a cigarette or an electronic cigarette in the golden state.

Legislation in California was changed earlier this week, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed bills only allowing those over the age of 21 to smoke both electronic and regular cigarettes in public places. Brown, is also expanding the no-smoking zones in all of the public schools throughout the state.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that aside from this move, Gov. Brown also vetoed a bill that would have given counties permission to search for voter approval of local tobacco taxes in order to pay for healthcare related costs for individuals suffering from tobacco-related sicknesses.

“Although California has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the nation, I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot,” Gov. Brown wrote as he vetoed the bill.

For Gov. Brown and his fellow Senators signing these bills is about saving lives.

“The governor’s signature on Tobacco 21 is a signal that California presents a united front against Big Tobacco,” said Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) in a statement. “Together, we stand to disrupt the chain of adolescent addiction.”

Supporting Gov. Brown and his new stance on the smoking age are medical organizations including the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, and the California Medical Association (CMA).

“It is long past due for California to update our approach to tobacco, and with the governor’s signature on these life-saving bills, we have done just that,” said Steven Larson, who is currently the president of the CMA.

Businesses in the tobacco industry refuse to stand idle and have revealed plans to seek a referendum vote in the hopes of reversing the bills. Pro-smoking organizations, such as the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, publicly expressed they are displeased with Gov. Brown’s actions, as vaping will soon be extinct in California. This organization is suggesting to educate voters on the tobacco industry instead

“California took a step backward today by reclassifying vapor products as tobacco,” the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association said in a statement. “Stigmatizing vapor products, which contain no tobacco, and treating them the same as combustible tobacco while actively seeking to economically penalize smokers attempting to switch is counterproductive to public health.”

As of now, California is the second state in the country to raise the smoking age to 21. The first state to take that route was Hawaii.

Hernandez said the bill was authored with the goal of decreasing how early teens begin smoking.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health nearly 90 percent of tobacco users begin smoking before 21. About 80 percent try tobacco by the time they turn 18.