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21 To Legally Smoke?

Sacramento, CA – Soon you may have to be older than 18 to legally light up in California.

The California Assembly Thursday voted to raise the smoking age to 21.  The move would make the state among the first in the nation to make the switch.  Included in the package of tobacco-related legislation was the regulation of electronic cigarettes and methods to restrict access to tobacco.  Critics argue it is an infringement on individual freedoms and the government should not tell adults what to do.  Co-author of the legislation, Democrat Assemblyman Jim Wood’s (D-Healdsburg) says age limits to protect the public are nothing new, “In the 1970’s we lowered the drinking age to 18…Motor vehicle accidents and fatalities  skyrocketed in that age group.  Eventually, under the threat of losing federal highway funding states gradually moved it back to 21 and we saved lives.”

Last year this same package cleared the Senate, and stalled in the Assembly.   Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) praised the Assembly stating it will also cut cost for taxpayers, “Studies have shown that Californians spend more than $9.8 billion treating the effects of tobacco use every year and $3.5 billion is billed directly to Medi-Cal. Raising the legal smoking age will help lower the number of young people who use tobacco, and that means healthier Californians and lower costs for taxpayers.  Advocates have said this is the most sweeping tobacco regulation in 50 years.  California led the way for the nation with a workplace ban, and the restrictions in bars and restaurants.  We are leading the way again.”

The bills head back to the Senate to approve Assembly changes. Hawaii has already raised its minimum age to 21, as have over a hundred counties and city, including New York city.