• Abigail Blome

California Cracks Down with New Tobacco Laws

California has now passed legislation raising its smoking age from 18 to 21. This bill was among several that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Wednesday, which will also place new restrictions on public smoking areas and electronic cigarettes.

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While Brown made no comment on the bills that he signed into law, Sen. Ed Hernandez stated that the new changes in regards to tobacco would save countless lives. Hernandez stated further, “The governor’s signature on Tobacco 21 is a signal that California presents a united front against Big Tobacco. Together, we stand to disrupt the chain of adolescent addiction."

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Along with Hernandez, many medical organizations and affiliates also expressed support for the new laws such as the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network and Steven Larsen, president of the California Medical Association. Larsen said in a statement, “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.”

While the age of buying tobacco products was raised in California, Gov. Brown also vetoed a bill that would have raised taxed on tobacco products in an effort to help cover healthcare expenses for with tobacco-induced health issues. Brown wrote in his veto message, “Although California has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the nation, I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot.”

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California is now the second US state to chance the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 and the seventh to push the smoking age above 18 years old. Similar restrictions have also been placed on the selling and purchasing of electronic cigarettes, vaporizers, and chewing tobacco in an effort to reduce the health issues that these products can cause.

The tobacco industry has threatened to retaliate against the new California smoking laws by seeking a referendum vote in hope of overturning the bills that affected their consumers. “When we hit the street with a referendum paying $10 per signature, Prop. 30 is dead as well as $2 a pack tax,” lobbyist George Miller wrote. “We will have every signature gatherer on an exclusive. Just letting you know so you can’t say you were not warned.”

The new tobacco laws will become effective on June 9 of this year.

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