Mar. 10 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – With final approval in the state Senate today, the California Legislature has taken historic action to combat tobacco use – the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death – by voting to increase the age of sale for tobacco products to 21, add electronic cigarettes to state tobacco regulations and approve other measures to further reduce tobacco use. We strongly urge Gov. Jerry Brown to sign these measures into law. These actions represent the strongest steps California has taken to fight tobacco use in nearly two decades. They will protect children from tobacco addiction, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.
By increasing the tobacco age to 21, the nation’s largest state will provide incredible momentum to various efforts nationwide. The state of Hawaii and at least 135 cities and counties in nine states have already raised the tobacco age to 21. Major cities that have done so include New York, Boston, Cleveland and both Kansas Cities. Many other states and cities across the country are considering such measures, and California’s action will add a significant boost to these efforts.
The Senate also gave final approval to several other measures passed by the Assembly last week to further reduce tobacco use, strengthen protections against harmful secondhand smoke and improve the overall health of California. By closing loopholes in the smoke-free workplace law, the state will protect even more workers from the hazards of secondhand smoke. By adding e-cigarettes to the smoke-free law and other tobacco regulations, the state brings common-sense regulation to these novel tobacco products and helps ensure they do not undermine secondhand smoke protections and efforts to reduce tobacco use. And by requiring all schools to be tobacco-free, California will reduce youth tobacco use even more.
Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. The increase in the tobacco age will help counter the industry’s efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. A 2015 report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 would yield substantial public health benefits.
Tobacco use kills nearly half a million Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. If current trends continue, 5.6 million of today’s youth will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. We applaud California lawmakers for their leadership in helping end this terrible epidemic and look forward to Gov. Brown signing these measures into law.