California bill would raise tobacco age to 21

Mar 03, 2016, 7:20 PM EST
Source: Quinn Dombrowski/flickr
Source: Quinn Dombrowski/flickr
The California Assembly has approved a bill that would raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. The bill now goes to the Senate, and if approved, would make California one of two states in the U.S. to raise the smoking age to 21. The Washington Post reports:
The state Assembly passed a bill raising the smoking age from 18, joining Hawaii and dozens of cities around the country that have already moved to the higher limit. The Senate, which approved an earlier draft of the bill last year, is expected to decide next week whether to send it to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
It comes days after San Francisco officials voted to increase the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21, making it the second-largest city after New York City to do so. Several other California jurisdictions, including the city of Healdsburg and Santa Clara County, have also raised their smoking ages.
Republicans said it was unfair to take away the decision on whether to smoke from young people who are old enough to marry, vote, sign contracts and join the military.
"You can give your life but you can't buy a pack of cigarettes," said Republican leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley, who opposed the bill.
Some veterans groups also objected, leading Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) to amend the bill to exempt those under 21 who are in active military service.
The legislation was part of a package of tobacco measures—including restrictions on electronic cigarettes—that stalled last year. The bills were revived by their authors after Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown called a special session to address statewide health-care issues.
Following the state Assembly’s approval, the bill is expected to be approved by the Senate next week before moving to the governor’s desk for signature. A spokesperson for the governor declined to comment.
If Mr. Brown signs the bill into law, it would mark a major victory for proponents who believe the change could reduce the number of teens who start smoking. It would also represent a major setback for Big Tobacco, which already is contending with declining sales in the U.S. as fewer Americans take up the habit.