Keeping Young People From Lighting Up

A bill to raise the smoking age to 21 has passed the legislature and is expected to hit Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk April 11. He will then have 12 days to approve or reject it. If he signs it, the law would take effect June 9.

When asked by federal researchers, 5 percent below the age of 18 and nearly 28 percent of Californians aged 18 to 25 said they had used a tobacco product within the past 30 days — rates below the national average, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Rates drop in older age groups.

Hawaii, which in January became the first state to raise its smoking age to 21, has smoking rates higher than in California, but still not as high as the national average.

According to Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), who introduced California’s bill to push the smoking age up to 21, about 90 percent of tobacco users start smoking before they turn 21, and 80 percent of lifetime users start before the age of 18.

The age-restriction bill is one of six bills tightening the use of tobacco products in California this year. You can read more about the smoking age bill in David Gorn’s coverage.