This Tuesday, California lawmakers voted to raise smoking age from 18 to 21 as part of a package of measures to crack down on tobacco use. This will make California the second state behind Hawaii to raise their smoking age.
Thoughts from Lawmakers
Governor Jerry Brown still has to sign off on this Senate-approved legislation. This bill would also restrict the use of electronic cigarettes the same as tobacco products. This higher age limit got approved despite being surrounded by some powerful lobbying from tobacco interests and intense opposition from several Republicans, who claim the state should stay out of people’s personal decisions.
Cathy Callaway, associate director of state and local campaigns for the American Cancer Society, says “With California having such a huge population, it’s going to be very impactful nationwide.”
Impact of Decision to Raise Smoking Age
This package of bills would expand smoke-free areas in small businesses, warehouses, hotel lobbies and bars. Smoking bans would also apply more at schools and counties would be able to raise their own cigarette taxes above the state’s levy of $0.87 per pack.
Advocates believe that the majority of smokers start smoking before they are 18 and making it illegal for 18-year-olds to buy cigarettes will help prevent teens from buying them for their underage friends.
Critics of the bill say that adults are trusted to make serious decisions, like joining the military or voting. In response to this, Democrats changed the bill to allow members of the military to continue buying cigarettes at 18.
Lawmakers also raise smoking age so they can expand smoke-free area laws. This package of bills would expand smoke-free areas in workplace break rooms, small businesses, warehouses, hotel lobbies and bars. Smoking bans would apply more at schools and counties would be able to raise their cigarette taxes above the state’s tax of $0.87 per pack.
Anti-smoking groups are currently collecting signatures for a ballot in November that would raise the cigarette tax to $2 per pack and redirect the money towards tobacco-use prevention, law enforcement, research and health care.
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