Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation raising the legal age to smoke in California from 18 to 21 years. The exception is active-duty military personnel who may smoke at age 18.
On Wednesday, May 4, Brown signed five new bills that all affect smoking within the state and become effective June 9. Other bills address regulation of e-cigarettes, smoke-free workplaces, school properties and licensing fees for distributing tobacco products.
Brown did veto the bill authorizing cities and counties to impose their own tobacco tax. In his veto message, Brown wrote, “Although California has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the nation, I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot.”
“Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age,” said Sen. Dr. Ed Hernandez, who sponsored the bill to raise the age for legal smoking. “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.”
Nine in 10 smokers take up the habit by age 18, according to the American Lung Association in California, and 36,000 California kids start smoking each year.
The bill raising the age to legally purchase tobacco products also establishes a $75 fine or 30 hours of community service for persons under age 18 who purchase, receive or possess tobacco products.
The workplace smoking prohibitions are now extended to owner-operated businesses. The owner must be the only employee with no independent contractors or volunteers.
Also, the current provision, which allows smoking in 65 percent of guest rooms in hotels, motels or similar lodging, has been reduced to 20 percent of rooms in which smoking maybe permitted.
A state Department of Public Health report stated e-cigarette aerosol contains at least 10 chemicals on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Consequently, DPH recommended that “[e]xisting laws that currently protect minors and the general public from traditional tobacco products should be extended to cover e-cigarettes.” SBX2 5 will do exactly this by including e-cigarettes within California’s smoke-free laws.
“The e-cigarette is nothing more than a new delivery system for toxic and addictive nicotine,” said Sen. Mark Leno, (D-San Francisco), who authored the e-cigarette bill. “Ensuring that e-cigarettes fall under California’s comprehensive smoke-free laws is critical to protecting public health, especially given the alarming rate at which young people are picking up these devices.”