California Governor raises tobacco age to 21

Posted on 5 May 2016 by Tim Brown
California has become the second state in the US to raise the tobacco age to 21 - image courtesy of Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation

California Governor, Jerry Brown, yesterday signed a bill to raise the sales age of all nicotine and tobacco products sold in the state to 21 years old.

California has long been a leader in tobacco prevention and control, but 40,000 of its citizens still die each year from smoking, and it costs the state over $9bn in extra health care expenditures.

The new tobacco law is set to take effect June 9 along with another measure measure that prohibits e-cigarette use where smoking is forbidden

According to the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, teen use of e-cigarettes, hookahs, vape devices and small cigars has exploded, largely erasing a decade of hard-won declines in kids’ use of traditional cigarettes.

The US Surgeon General predicts that if the current trajectory is maintained, 5.6 million American kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking.  Early nicotine use is also strongly associated with abuse of other substances as well as adolescent depression, anxiety and suicide.

A study by the Institute of Medicine, found that raising the age nationally for tobacco purchase would eventually reduce the number of Americans who smoke by 12% and result in 249,000 fewer premature deaths related to cigarette smoking for people born between 2000 and 2019.

One of the earliest adopters, Needham, Massachusetts, demonstrated a 48% reduction in high school smoking when a Tobacco 21 law was enacted.

The California tobacco lobby is set to oppose the bill and may bring the issue to national referendum.

However, polls in California and across the US have demonstrated tremendous popular support for the reform.  More than 75% of Americans including all demographic groups and political ideologies endorse the change, including 70% of smokers.

More than 150 cities across the country have adopted age 21, but only one state, Hawaii, has so far successfully implemented the 21 age limit.