May. 4 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – With Governor Jerry Brown’s signature today, California once again has taken historic action to combat tobacco use – the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death – by raising the age of sale for tobacco products to 21, adding electronic cigarettes to state tobacco regulations and approving other measures to further reduce tobacco use. These actions represent the strongest steps California has taken to fight tobacco use in nearly two decades and set an example for the entire country. These measures 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 provides incredible momentum to similar efforts nationwide. The state of Hawaii and at least 145 localities in 10 states previously raised the tobacco age to 21, including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland and both Kansas Cities. Many other states and cities are considering such measures, and California’s action will add a significant boost to these efforts.
Gov. Brown also signed into law several other measures 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.
It is disappointing, however, that Governor Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed counties to impose tobacco taxes, which would further reduce tobacco use.
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, over $13 billion in California alone. If current trends continue, 5.6 million of today’s youth will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. We applaud Governor Brown and California lawmakers for their leadership in helping end this terrible epidemic.