Senator Hernandez Re-Introduces Legislation to Raise Smoking Age

July 16, 2015

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July 16, 2015                                                              

Senator Hernandez Re-Introduces Legislation to Raise Smoking Age

Bill Aims to Reduce Smoking by Restricting Teen Access to Tobacco Products

(Sacramento,CA) – Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez, O.D. (D–West Covina), Chair of the Senate Health Committee, reintroduced legislation in the 2nd extraordinary session that will raise the legal minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 and severely limit teen access to tobacco products. SB2X 7 is part of a comprehensive package of tobacco control measure that Senate and Assembly Democrats introduced today to reduce the cost of providing health care services and improve the health of Californians.

“Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age”, said Hernandez. “While our previous attempts to protect California’s youth from this deadly drug came up just short, the Governor’s call for a special session provides a perfect opportunity for us to further pursue this policy. Hearing SB2X 7 in the Public Health and Developmental Services Committees will allow the Legislature to focus on the true health implications of passing this broadly supported and lifesaving measure.”

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States with 480,000 people dying annually – 40,000 from effects of secondhand smoke. According to the CDC, tobacco use kills more people per year than alcohol, murders, illegal drugs, AIDS, and motor vehicle accidents combined.  It is estimated that more that 90% of adult smokers start before the age of 21. A recent study conducted by the Institute of Medicine concluded that raising the minimum age to 21 would help prevent 250,000 premature deaths for those born between 2000 and 2019 and cause a more rapid decline in tobacco prevalence.

Aside from the vast human toll, tobacco is a heavy burden financially. The University of California, San Francisco estimates that tobacco use costs California $18.1 billion annually, with direct health care expenditures accounting for more than half that total. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids estimates there is about $3.5 billion in Medi-Cal costs associated with tobacco use. 

Numerous municipalities across the country have already increased their tobacco purchase age to 21 and Hawaii recently became the first state in the nation to do so. Early results in Needham, MA indicate this policy is successful, as they have documented a much more pronounced decline in smoking prevalence since the passage of tobacco 21 when compared to surrounding communities.

“It’s high time for California to redouble its tobacco control efforts,” stated Hernandez. “We need to wake up and stop making it so easy for tobacco companies to poison generation after generation of Californian residents.”

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