CALIFORNIA—Effective starting June 9 Californians have to wait until the age of 21 now to purchase tobacco products, according to the LA Times. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bills on May 4 raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.
This makes California the second state in the U.S. to have a legal smoking age of 21, with Hawaii being to first state to have this law. In Utah, Alaska, Alabama, and New Jersey the smoking age is 19. The rest of the states in the U.S. have their age set at 18 years old.
The bill also restricts the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and will expand no-smoking areas at public schools. People in active military service who are older than 18 years old are exempt from the new law. The bills were approved during a special session on healthcare and went into effect sooner than other bills that will not go into effect until January 1, 2017.
The bills have been backed by a coalition of medical groups including the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society and the California Medical Association.
“It is long past due for California to update our approach to tobacco, and with the governor’s signature on these life-saving bills, we have done just that,” said Steven Larson, president of the CMA, according to the LA Times.
Supporters of the bill note statistics about tobacco use and effects like that tobacco use is still the lead cause of preventable death in the U.S. with as many as 34,000 Californians dying each year. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 90% of tobacco users start using before the age of 21 and 80% try tobacco products before the age of 18.
A 2015 Institute of Medicine study estimated that the new bills would result in 20,000 fewer premature deaths for those born between the years 2000-2019. As part of the bill electronic cigarettes cannot be used in restaurants, theaters, bars and places that have established smoking bands, and they cannot be marketed to minors.
The tobacco industry threatened once the bills were signed to seek a referendum vote to overturn the bills. The bills are also criticized by the Smoke-Free Trade Association.
“California took a step backwards today by reclassifying vapor products as tobacco,” said the Smoke-Free Trade Association, according to the LA Times. “Stigmatizing vapor products, which contain no tobacco, and treating them the same as combustible tobacco while actively seeking to economically penalize smokers attempting to switch is counterproductive to public health.”
San Francisco News sent an email to Governor Brown, but was unable to receive comment before print.