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California Legislature Votes To Increase Smoking Age To 21

(Photo by Givaga via Shutterstock)
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The California State Senate approved a package of tobacco legislation this morning that would increase the state's smoking age to 21-years-old. Along with the age increase, the legislation also proposes to regulate e-cigarettes (or vaporizers) the same way as regular tobacco products.

The package of six tobacco bills passed Thursday morning now move on to Governor Jerry Brown's desk, given they've already been approved by the California State Assembly. If the Governor signs them, California will become just the second state to increase the smoking age to 21 from 18, according to the L.A. Times.

As you would expect, some of the more freedom-loving members of the California state legislature are not in favor of the regulation.

"You can commit a felony when you're 18 years old and for the rest of your life, be in prison," Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes said to the Associated Press. "And yet you can't buy a pack of cigarettes."

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Nor can you buy alcohol or rent a car.

On the flip side, the case in favor of increasing the age argues that a higher purchasing age reduces access for high school students. Right now, 18-year-olds on high school campuses can purchase and possibly give cigarettes to their younger peers. Increasing the age to 21 eliminates this possibility.

The legislation also includes language specifically intended to regulate vaporizers as tobacco. The rationale is justified on a shaky "gateway theory" argument, saying that e-cigarettes might encourage teenagers to switch traditional cigarettes. Aside from more stringent purchasing requirements, vaping will be banned in restaurants, theaters, and other places with "No Smoking" designations.

Incidentally, San Francisco supervisors just approved a motion to increase the smoking age in its own city limits just last week.

Aside from the age increase and vaping rules, four other tobacco bills are pending gubernatorial approval. These other measures increase licensing fees on tobacco sales, let counties take matters of local tobacco taxes to voters, and expand bans on smoking at schools, workplaces, and other spots currently not covered by state law (like parking lots, for example).

The Governor's office has not offered any public comment, a spokesman telling the AP the governor doesn't usually offer thoughts on pending legislation.