Smoking age raised to 21 in California

California's Gov. Brown signed a bill into law changing the age to purchase tobacco products to age 21. (YouTube.com)

California’s Gov. Brown signed a bill into law changing the age to purchase tobacco products to age 21. (Lariat File Photo)

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a five-part bill on Wednesday, May 4, that raises the legal age for smoking from 18 to 21 in California. The bill will also restrict usage of electronic cigarettes in public areas.

Brown did, however, veto Assembly Bill X2-10  that would have allowed cities to locally tax tobacco products.

The main bill SB X2-7 raises the legal age of tobacco products. SB X2-5 puts electronic cigarette and vape products into the class of tobacco. Assembly Bill X2-5 expands tobacco-free school laws so that tobacco prevention funding can only go to tobacco-free schools. Saddleback joined the tobacco-free movement in fall of 2015.

AB X2-7 bans smoking in all owner operated businesses and hotel lobbies and AB X2-11 increases licensing fees to sell and distribute tobacco related products.

California is now the only state besides Hawaii to have the age limit as high as 21. In Utah, Alabama, Alaska and New Jersey, the age is 19 while the rest of the U.S. has the 18 age limit that California had previously.

The bills passed were heavily backed by health groups who often cited it as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. The American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society and California Medical Association all supported Brown’s decision, citing it as the strongest measure to control tobacco in the state in over a decade.

“It is long past due for California to update our approach to tobacco, and with the governor’s signature on these life-saving bills, we have done just that,” said Steven Larson, president of the CMA.

The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health states that roughly 12.2 million young adults between 18 and 25 used tobacco in the past month in the United States.

These five bills were approved during a special session dealing with healthcare and will go into effect sooner than the other passed bills. The tobacco and e-cig related bills will become law on June 9 while other bills will become law on Jan. 1, 2017.

“Kids smoke below the age of 18 all the time anyways,” said Josh Rizzo, 19, video game design. “I don’t feel like they’re going to achieve whatever goal they’re trying to accomplish by increasing the legal age.”

However, some are more optimistic about it’s improvement of statewide health.

“I think it’s a great thing that they raised the age,” said Kevin Hunt, 19, graphic communications. “Over the past few years the amount of teens who smoke and cape has sky-rocketed so hopefully this minimizes that.”

Opinions aside however, Gov. Brown’s signing will likely be a cultural adjustment for California.

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