Senator Hernandez’ Tobacco 21 Legislation Clears the Assembly

March 3, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         
Contact: Janet Chin (626)430-2499

                              California is Poised to Become Second State in the Nation to Raise Smoking Age to 21
(Sacramento, CA) – Today, California legislators came together to make history as the second state in the nation to pass a bill, authored by Senator Ed Hernandez (SBX2 7), that raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.  

“I’m proud to see my colleagues come together on this bill,” said Senator Hernandez “We are no longer going 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.”

This bill, which passed out of the Assembly on a vote of 46 to 26, simply raises the legal age from 18 to 21 that people can purchase tobacco products.  Along with the passage of Senator Leno’s SBX2 5, this “Tobacco 21” measure will require Californians be 21 years of age in order to buy e-cigarette products as well.

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.  It is estimated that 90% of tobacco users start before the age of 21, roughly 80% first try tobacco before age 18, and 75% of teen smokers continue into their adult years.  Additionally, studies have shown that a large percentage of people who purchase cigarettes for illegal distribution are under 21 years of age.

“This is a major victory for public health in California,” said Hernandez. “California has always been a leader in health care, including tobacco control. I’m hopeful California will be a turning point for this movement across the country and we can substantially reduce the heavy and costly burden of tobacco in society.”

Aside from the vast human toll, tobacco inflicts a heavy burden financially on our state. 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 direct Medi-Cal costs.  They also estimate California experiences a $10.3 billion loss in productivity annually related to tobacco usage.

This bill is supported by the Save Lives California Coalition, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, the California Medical Association, the California Dental Association, parents and community leaders statewide.  After a concurrence vote in the Senate next week, the bill will go to the Governor for signature.