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California Assembly Passes New Tobacco Fees, Restrictions, Higher Minimum Age

The California state Assembly passed new restrictions and fees on tobacco products, including raising the minimum smoking age to 21 during a contentious session Thursday in Sacramento.

The package of tobacco bills stalled in the Assembly last year. Democrats expedited them back to the floor through a “special session” Governor Jerry Brown called last year on health care.

Republicans attempted to block the votes, arguing they fell outside the session’s purpose.

“This is an abuse of the process, and it makes a mockery of the state Assembly," said Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, a Modesto Republican. "So I will be abstaining from this vote, and I urge others to do the same.”

The bills raise fees on nicotine products, ban them in charter schools, further restrict them in offices and allow new county taxes. Another bill applies tobacco restrictions to e-cigarettes.

The bill to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 was the most contentious.

“This will save the Medi-Cal system in the outgoing years millions of dollars and it’s going to save thousands of lives here in California,” said Assemblyman Jim Wood, a North Coast Democrat. "“Let’s move forward on this policy. Let’s save lives."

Assemblyman Bill Brough, an Orange County Republican, told this story about being raised by his grandmother:

“My grandfather died when I was 12," Brough said. "Walter Brough smoked his whole life, and he died of throat cancer in our house when I was 12-years-old. But I always looked at his choice. My father had a similar fate.”

Brough voted against the bills, which all passed along largely-party lines.

They now move to the Senate for final approval.

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