California Medical Association May Seek Legal Age of 21 for Tobacco
The California Medical Association will consider seeking to raise the state's smoking age from 18 to 21 -- which would be the highest in the nation -- during its annual session next week, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. If passed, the proposal would direct the CMA's lobbyists to support any legislation that would change the legal age to "buy, possess or receive tobacco products or paraphernalia." In addition, CMA could vote to amend its proposal and directly draft a bill. Such a bill would need a legislator to sponsor it. There currently is no such measure before the state Legislature. The legal age to buy tobacco products is 18 in 47 states; three states have a legal age of 19 (Bridges, AP/Contra Costa Times, 2/21). The American Lung Association is opposed to the CMA measure, saying that California should instead "focu[s] on enforcing the current laws." Serena Chen, director of tobacco control policy for the American Lung Association of the East Bay, said, "We have a large number of tobacco control laws in existence which are not adequately enforced. Any effort from this point should go toward enforcement." The Chronicle reports that the lung association favors increasing taxes on tobacco products, which would make them less affordable to minors (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/21). Tom Ryan, a spokesperson for tobacco company Philip Morris USA, agreed with the lung association's position, saying, "What's far more important ... is kids should not be smoking and we very actively support enforcement of existing laws to keep tobacco out of the hands of minors" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 2/21). But Dr. Leonard Klay, the proposal's sponsor, said, "If this is another rung on the ladder to prevent people from starting [to smoke], then it's worthwhile" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/21).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.