California raises smoking, vaping age to 21; e-cigs banned in public buildings

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California is the latest entity — and the biggest — to raise the age for buying cigarettes and vaping products to 21 (There’s a misunderstanding here, it’s not against the law for 18-year-olds to smoke or vape … it’s against the law to sell products to people under 21 now.).

This is one area where I’m not 100 percent on board with the rest of the  tobacco control community. There is a part of me that thinks when you’re 18, you can vote, join the military and go to prison for committing a crime; you’re considered mature enough to vote and do prison time, but not smoke? I’m still struggling with this, though virtually the entire rest of the tobacco control community is in favour of it.  The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (the group’s advocacy affiliate), the American Lung Association and the president of the California Medical Association all came in favour of the California law.

Interestingly, I think lawmakers in California listened to some of these concerns. People in the military between 18 and 21 are exempted from the law (though I need to follow up later on a story that the military is cracking down on tobacco sales on its bases.).

California now joins Hawaii and New York City and a few other places that have raised the age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21.

Perhaps this will be effective in stopping kids from not only smoking but vaping. One reason I remain a bit skeptical about how effective this law will be is most kids don’t start smoking or vaping after they turn 18; most of the time they start when they’re 13 or 14 years old. Maybe it will be harder for their 18- and 19-year-old friends or siblings to buy their tobacco products for them. We’ll see. If the teen smoking and vaping rates go down in five years because of these laws, I’ll be more

From CNN.com:

“[These laws] will save countless lives, reduce astronomical costs to the health care system, and cost very little because it uses existing enforcement mechanisms,” said Senator Ed Hernandez, who authored the bill to raise the age of tobacco products. “Today was an enormous victory for not only this generation, but also for many generations to come who will not suffer the deadly impacts of tobacco.”

One thing I like is that the bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed also prohibit the use of e-cigs in public buildings, even in bars.

From the L.A. Times:

The e-cigarette is nothing more than a new delivery system for toxic and addictive nicotine,” State Sen. Mark Leno said Wednesday. “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.”

What I like most about the law is that it actually makes it a criminal offence — a misdemeanor, not a citation — to sell or buy cigarettes or vaping products for underaged users. Basically, the same as alcohol. That should put a dent in retailers selling vaping products to teens.

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