NPR: California Raises Age Of Tobacco Purchase To 21 And Tightens Vaping Rules

May 5, 2016

By Lisa Aliferis

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a sweeping package of tobacco bills into California law on Wednesday, including one that will raise the legal age to buy products from 18 to 21 and another that dramatically tightens restrictions on e-cigarettes.

But the governor vetoed a bill that would have permitted cities and counties to establish their own tobacco taxes.

"Although California has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation," the governor said in a veto message, "I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot."

California becomes just the second state after Hawaii to raise the lawful age to buy tobacco products, a move that backers applaud as a certain way to curtail harm to adolescents, and reduce the number of adult smokers.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez, a Democrat from West Covina, was the lead author of the bill to raise the tobacco age, and says he's "ecstatic."

"What this means for California is now we can know that our youth are less likely to be addicted to this horrible drug of tobacco," he says. "There's going to be less addiction to tobacco, [and] we're going to reduce health care costs and save lives."

The law, which will take effect June 9, applies to all 18 to 20-year-olds, except military personnel. The bill had stalled for months until a compromise was reached to permit service members under 21 to continue purchasing tobacco.

A major Institute of Medicine report last year concluded that if all states raised the tobacco age to 21, there would be a 12 percent drop in the number of teen and young adult smokers.

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