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California Lawmakers Back Smoking Age Of 21


A year-long battle over a package of six anti-tobacco bills now moves from the California Legislature to Gov. Jerry Brown. The Senate approved the measures Thursday on mostly party line votes after they won Assembly passage last week.

Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez’s bill would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

“We can prevent countless California youth from becoming addicted to this deadly drug, saving billions of dollars in direct health care costs – and most importantly, saves lives,” said Hernandez.

The measure would exempt active-duty military but not veterans. That drew criticism from Republican Sen. Joel Anderson, who argued vets with PTSD often smoke to cope with their stress.

“While I get that we know that smoking’s not good for you, I don’t want to remove this option from them so that their only alternative is to smoke marijuana,” he said.

A measure that would regulate e-cigarettes like tobacco drew opposition from Republican Sen. John Moorlach.

“I think we need to differentiate. I think we ought to say, okay, if you’re buying a nicotine-based e-cigarette product, then that should be considered tobacco – but not everything else,” he said.

Democratic Sen. Mark Leno responded that e-cigarettes are unregulated.

“There is no one checking to see what’s in this product – nobody,“ he said. “And tests have shown that products that claim to be nicotine-free are in fact not.”

The governor has not indicated how he’ll act on the bills. In addition to these measures, anti-tobacco advocates are gathering signatures for a potential November ballot initiative that would raise the cigarette tax by $2 a pack.

Original story (AP)California lawmakers have voted to make the nation's most populous state the second to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown still must sign off on the legislation approved Thursday that makes California the first state after Hawaii with the higher age limit. His spokesman said last week that the governor generally does not comment on pending legislation.

The change is part of a sweeping package of anti-smoking measures that aims to crack down on tobacco use and the health problems it causes.

The bills also restrict electronic cigarettes the same as tobacco products. The increasingly popular devices are not regulated by the federal government.

The higher age limit got approved despite intense lobbying from tobacco interests and fierce opposition from many Republicans.