Bill Would Raise California Minimum Legal Smoking Age From 18 to 21
A new bill (SB 151), by state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), would raise the legal minimum smoking age in California from 18 to 21 in an effort to stem tobacco use among teenagers, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports.
Kimberly Amazeen, vice president of the American Lung Association in California, said that smoking contributes to more than 40,000 annual deaths in the state. Meanwhile, about 21,300 young Californians start smoking per year, according to "PolitiCal" (McGreevy, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 1/29).
Details of Bill
Hernandez said the bill would increase protections for children under 18 years old by increasing the gap between them and those who can legally purchase tobacco. He said, "It is much easier for someone who is 17 to get cigarettes from a friend who is 18. Someone who is 21 is more likely to be in the workforce or in college, and unlikely to have a younger set of friends."
If the bill is signed into law, California would be the first state to raise the smoking age to 21, according to KQED's "State of Health" (Dembosky, "State of Health," KQED, 1/29). However it is likely to receive strong opposition from the tobacco industry.
The bill is supported by the:
- American Cancer Society; and
- California Medical Association.
For more on SB 151, read today's Capitol Desk report.
Robert Best, western regional representative of smokers' rights group The Smoker's Club, said that increasing the minimum legal age will not change young people's behavior ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 1/29).
However, Lindsey Freitas, senior director at ALA in California, said, "The ages between 18 [and] 21 are such a critical period because that's when a lot of smokers move from that experimental smoking period to being regular, daily smokers" ("State of Health," KQED, 1/29).
Meanwhile, CMA President Luther Cobb said that "increasing the age at which people can purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 will help reduce tobacco use in young people, hence reducing the number of preventable diseases" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 1/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.