On Thursday, lawmakers in California voted to raise the smoking age in California from 18 to 21. This would also ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public areas such as theaters, restaurants and bars, and other public areas where traditional smoking is banned. This would make California the second state to take the tobacco products out of the hands of teens.
Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez, who wrote the bill, said, “We can prevent countless California youth from becoming addicted to this deadly drug, save billions of dollars in direct health care costs and, most importantly, save lives.”
Republicans were heavily opposed to raising the age limit, saying that the state should mind their own business and let people make their own decisions when it comes to their health, even when they could be harmful.
Supporters mentioned data from the U.S. surgeon general noting that most smokers begin at a young age, even before they are 18 years old. By raising the age limit, younger kids won’t be able to get their older friends or siblings to purchase cigarettes for them, proving it to be more difficult for teens to get their hands on these harmful products.
Opponents argue that for the longest time, it has been accepted that once you turn 18 years of age, you can make your own adult decisions. This would include joining the military, registering to vote, consenting to sex and signing contracts, amongst other things. At the age of 18, you’re able to make these decisions on your own and suffer the consequences of making poor decisions.
“You can commit a felony when you’re 18 years old and for the rest of your life, be in prison,” Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes said. “And yet you can’t buy a pack of cigarettes.”
Another bill will focus on classifying vaping devices, such as e-cigarettes, as tobacco products that will fall under the same rules and restrictions. Since there is no scientific consensus on the risks of these products, although some people say they are safer than smoking cigarettes, they have not been studied extensively enough to know for a fact that they are any less harmful.
The Smoke-Free Alternatives Industry Group, a vaping industry group, urged Brown to veto the bill because it could cause a problem for vape shops.
“The stigma of being equated with tobacco has many negative consequences,” the group wrote.
Tobacco 21, a group that advocates the policy shift nationally, say that more than 120 cities and towns have raised the legal smoking age on their own. Hawaii is the only other to raise the smoking age limit statewide.
According to the American Cancer Society, these six bills that passed in both houses are California’s most significant anti-tobacco efforts in almost two decades.