RELEASE: Tobacco 21 Law Now Effective in CA

June 9, 2016

Sacramento – Starting today, you now have to be 21 to purchase tobacco products in California. With the enactment of Senate Bill x2 7 by Senator Ed Hernandez, O.D. (D-West Covina), California continues the fight against Big Tobacco and a business model that relies on addicting our youth.

“California is sending a strong message that we will not tolerate Big Tobacco’s deceptive marketing of this lethal product aimed at addicting our kids,” said Senator Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee. “This law will save countless lives and reduce costs in our health care system. This is a victory not only for Californians today, but for generations to come who will not have to experience first-hand the deadly impacts of tobacco.”

The law applies to traditional tobacco products, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco. It does not apply to active duty military personnel. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will be enforcing the new purchase age through existing penalties established in the STAKE Act. CDPH is sending updated information and signage to businesses.

“Checking identification is the single most effective way to reduce illegal sales of tobacco,” said Karen Smith, state health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). “CDPH is launching an educational campaign to help retailers comply with the new laws, but the Department also recognizes retailers already know how to check identification and will be familiar with the process because it now matches the minimum age for alcohol sales.”

Additionally, electronic cigarettes will now be classified as a tobacco product, which establishes the same legal age restriction.

By increasing the tobacco age to 21, this new law will substantially restrict youth access to tobacco. A 2015 federal Institute of Medicine (IOM) study found that roughly 90 percent of adults who became daily smokers reported that they first began using cigarettes before reaching 19 years of age.

The IOM report concluded that increasing the minimum age to 21 would result in 200,000 fewer premature deaths for those born between the years 2000 and 2019. Additionally, disease from tobacco use is a major driver of health care costs, with upwards of $3.5 billion annually in Medi-Cal costs, and as much as $18 billion to the overall health care system.

For more information on the new law and implementation, please visit: http://sd22.senate.ca.gov/tobacco21

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Senator Ed Hernandez represents the cities and communities of the San Gabriel Valley, which include: Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, South San Gabriel, Rosemead, El Monte, South El Monte, Baldwin Park, Irwindale, Industry, Avocado Heights, La Puente, Valinda, West Covina, Vincent, Azusa, Citrus, Covina, Temple City, Arcadia and surrounding neighborhoods.