California Gov Approves New Smoking Age

Residents must be 21 to buy tobacco starting in June
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 5, 2016 10:00 AM CDT
California Gov Approves New Smoking Age
A man exhales vapor from an e-cigarette in Sacramento, Calif.   (Rich Pedroncelli)

California has become the second state in the nation to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, starting the clock for opponents to ask voters for a reversal this November, reports the AP. Gov. Jerry Brown's signature on Wednesday means, beginning June 9, it will be a crime in California to sell or give tobacco to anyone except military personnel under age 21. He did not say why he signed the measure, along with others regulating e-cigarettes, setting annual tobacco license fees, pushing for all charter schools to be tobacco free, and expanding existing requirements for tobacco-free workplaces to include small businesses, break rooms, and hotel lobbies. Tobacco interests have threatened to target the changes at the ballot box.

Industry or other opponents would need to collect 366,000 valid signatures by early August to ask voters to reject the new laws in November. But supporters of the law—which follows similar ones passed in Hawaii, New York City, and San Francisco—say it aims to deter adolescents from nicotine addiction. The Institute of Medicine reports that 90% of daily smokers began using tobacco before turning 19. A March 2015 study noted increasing the smoking age would immediately deter 15% of people 18-20 from taking up a lasting tobacco habit and "mean that those who can legally obtain tobacco are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students." Lawmakers and health advocates applaud the move and expect other states to follow California's lead. (More California stories.)

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