California raises smoking age starting Thursday

Cigarette
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A new California law that takes another bold step to limit smoking goes into effect Thursday, raising the age limit to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Another new law bans e-cigarettes from public places such as schools, restaurants and hospitals.

California will be the second state in the nation after Hawaii to have an age requirement of 21 to purchase tobacco — a feat which state Sen. Ed Hernandez, author of the bill, says he is excited about. He predicts a "significant drop" in tobacco use.

“I think California is taking a leadership role in curbing tobacco use and tobacco products,” Hernandez, a Democrat, said in an interview. “Hopefully, all states in the United States will eventually move to 21 and reduce smoking even more."

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Hernandez said there could be some backlash or slightly more illegal underage tobacco use, though he thinks it will deter far more potential users. The Institute of Medicine found that if all states required a minimum age to purchase tobacco 21, it would lead to a 12% drop in smokers.

The bills were backed by an advocacy group, the Save Lives California coalition, made up of doctors and healthcare workers from the American Lung Association, the California Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and other organizations.

“I think tomorrow is a proud example of California taking the lead to protect our kids and stand up to big tobacco,” said Mike Roth, spokesperson for Save Lives California.

California e-cigarette smokers will also see restrictions after Thursday. All e-cigarette and vapor products will be reclassified as traditional tobacco products in the law. This law is opposed by the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association – a lobbying group for vapor products—which calls the provision a “step backwards.”

"Stigmatizing vapor products, which contain no tobacco and treating them the same as combustible cigarettes opens the door to excessive taxation that will economically penalize smokers looking to make the switch to vaping.,” said Josh Krane, president of the California chapters of the SFATA.