Senator Hernandez Introduces Legislation to Raise Smoking Age

January 29, 2015

Immediate Release                                                                                                       Contact: Janet Chin

January 29, 2015                                                                                                         (626)430-2499


Senator Hernandez 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, introduced legislation that will raise the legal minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 and severely limit teen access to tobacco products.


“Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age” said Hernandez, “We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them.  That is why I believe we need legislation like SB 151.”


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.  That is why groups like the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the American Lung Association have been championing measures like the one introduced by Senator Hernandez.


"Big Tobacco knows that more than 90% of current adult smokers started before they have left their teen years," said Tim Gibbs, Senior Director of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.  "Moving the legal age up to 21 will help get tobacco out of the hands of teenagers when they are young and most vulnerable to the tobacco industry's predatory model of recruiting lifetime addicts."


Aside from the vast human toll, tobacco is a heavy burden financially. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids estimates that direct health care expenditures related to smoking in California amount to approximately $13.3 billion annually – with about $3.5 billion in Medi-Cal costs. They also estimate California experiences a $10.3 billion loss in productivity related to tobacco usage.


“Smoking continues to take a deadly toll on the people of California, causing the deaths of more than 40,000 Californians each year while 21,300 California kids start smoking each year. According to our recent State of Tobacco Control Report, California once was a national leader in progressive tobacco control policies that saved people’s lives and kept kids from ever starting to smoke, but  in recent years it has fallen behind other states in protecting its residents from the tremendous burden of tobacco” said Kimberly Amazeen, Vice President for Programs and Advocacy for the American Lung Association in California, “That is why we need to take bold steps forward in our efforts to reduce tobacco use among youth. Senator Hernandez’s bill will do just that.”


“As Henry Waxman once said, cigarettes are the single most dangerous consumer product ever sold,” remarked Hernandez, “We need to wake up and stop making it so easy for tobacco companies to poison generation after generation of Californians.”


“Physicians regularly treat patients suffering from preventable illnesses caused by use of tobacco,” said Luther Cobb, MD, California Medical Association president.  “CMA believes that increasing the age at which people can purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 will help reduce tobacco use in young people, hence reducing the number of preventable diseases. We applaud Senator Hernandez for his leadership on this issue and dedication to ensuring young people stay healthy.”