On Tuesday, the California Senate voted 26-8 to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21. The bill, SB 151, amends the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act such that it applies to adults under the newly-proposed minimum age. According to The Los Angeles Times, the proposal will now proceed to the California State Assembly for consideration.
A similar measure cleared the Hawaii State Legislature earlier this year, but, as Fox News notes, the bill currently sits unsigned on Hawaii Democratic Governor David Ige’s desk. He has not yet signaled whether he will sign or veto the bill and has until June 29 to decide.
Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), the sponsor of the California bill, cited a study claiming that 90% of those who use tobacco start before age 21 as his rationale behind the ban. He also pointed to another study, produced by the Institute of Medicine and funded by the Food and Drug Administration, that claimed that such a ban would reduce cigarette smoking by 12%.
“We will not 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,” read a statement by Senator Ed Hernandez. However, the sale of tobacco products to children is already illegal in California, and SB 151 would only apply to adults age 18, 19, and 20.
The Cigar Association of America said, according to Breitbart, “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.”
Meanwhile, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that youth cigarette smoking has dropped to historic lows, though e-cigarette use is on the rise. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew Myers said of the CDC study data in comments to USA Today, “It represents a historic drop in cigarette use — the first time in history that we’ve seen cigarette use in high school youth below 10%. At the same time, the explosive rise in e-cigarette use is a wake-up call.” According to a 2013 CDC study cited by LiveScience, cigarette smoking among adults has recently plunged to all-time lows as well.
New York City banned the sale of tobacco products to individuals under 21 back in 2013. No US state has yet raised its smoking age to 21, but in Alaska, Utah, Alabama, and New Jersey, the minimum age is currently 19.