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California Senate Votes to Raise Smoking Age to 21

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California State Senators voted Tuesday to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21, by a vote of 26-8.

The bill now moves on to the State Assembly. If Senate Bill 151 is passed there, and Governor Jerry Brown signs it into law, California will become one of the first states, if not the first state, to raise the age for purchasing or consuming tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The bill author’s, Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), an optometrist, cited an Institute of Medicine study done for the federal Food and Drug Administration that concluded the additional age restriction would cut smoking by 12% according to the Los Angeles Times.

A similar bill cleared Hawaii’s legislature in April and awaits Governor David Ige’s signature. Reports indicate he was not sure whether he would sign the bill or not as of late April.

Upon the California bill’s January introduction, Hernandez said, “Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age.” Hernandez continued, “We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them.  That is why I believe we need legislation like SB 151.”

The Cigar Association of America (CAA) argues, “an individual can be eligible to vote, serve in the military, and enter into contracts at the age of 18 and therefore should be able to make decisions about purchasing tobacco products,” according to bill analysis.

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