Anti-Smoking Agencies Joining Forces

The first joint conference of three state agencies to combat tobacco use in California starts on Tuesday in Sacramento.

High on the agenda will be what to do about the dramatic rise in the electronic cigarette industry — particularly increased e-cigarette use among young Californians. 

It’s the first official gathering of three state agencies that have a stake in tobacco cessation among California youth — the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, the state Department of Public Health’s California Tobacco Control Program and the state Department of Education’s Tobacco-Use Prevention Education Program.

How nicotine affects the brains of teens is the presentation that kicks off the conference and sets the tone, along with a video address by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

The combined-agency effort comes after another legislative session where a number of anti-tobacco bills either failed to pass or were drastically amended:

  • A bill to make the same regulatory rules for cigarettes apply to e-cigarettes failed twice in the same year. First it stalled in the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization, which is known for stopping anti-tobacco legislation. But after legislative leaders went around that committee by putting the bill on the agenda of the special session on health (SBX2-5 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco), it passed the Senate and then was held by the Assembly.
  • Five other bills passed in special session to limit or regulate tobacco use, including a measure to change the legal age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21, all failed to get floor votes in the Legislature. Those bills, as part of the still-open special session, could still surface when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 2.  
  • One anti-tobacco bill did pass the Legislature last year, but in a truncated form. AB 768 by Assembly member Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) originally wanted to ban all tobacco products from all baseball parks in the state, from Little League to the major leagues. Instead, the bill that will become law on Jan. 1 will only ban smokeless tobacco from five stadiums in California — where major-league teams play in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco. The ban on chewing tobacco in those five parks, however, has no enforcement component, so baseball players will have to decide whether or not to go along with it.

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