A bill proposed by Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) has recently been introduced to the California State Senate, proposing to raise the legal smoking age to 21. Currently, smokers need to be 18 in order to purchase and consume tobacco products, but this law has failed to keep minors’ use of the substance down.
The American Lung Association reports that more than 400,000 deaths per year occur in California due to tobacco use, yet around 21,300 young Californians start smoking each year. Raising the legal age for tobacco use is intended to make cigarettes and tobacco products less available to younger generations and reduce the number of preventable diseases that are diagnosed each year.
Like alcohol, retailers will be required to deny the sale of tobacco products to persons under 21 years of age, and the State Department of Health will be allowed to conduct random, onsite inspections with the assistance of minors to ensure the law is followed.
Supporters of the bill anticipate opposition from Big Tobacco and tobacco lobbyists, who continue to put sales over safety with their deadly products. The American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the California Medical Association are all supporters of Senate Bill 151. If passed, California would become the first state to raise the legal age for tobacco use.