People can do a lot of things when they become an adult at age 18. Smoking is no longer one of them.
A new California law that went into effect Thursday ups the smoking age from 18 to 21. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill last month, which in addition to raising the legal age to buy tobacco also limits the use of e-cigarettes in public and expands no-smoking areas to public schools.
State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), who chairs the Senate Health Committee, introduced the bill to fight tobacco companies that market their products to young adults.
“California is sending a strong message that we will not tolerate Big Tobacco’s deceptive marketing of this lethal product aimed at addicting our kids,” Hernandez said in a press release.
California now has some of the strictest smoking laws in the nation. Earlier this year, Hawaii became the first state to up the age to 21.
Hernandez called the law a victory for everyone today and generations to come. He said it will save many lives and lower the costs of our healthcare system.
Senate Bill 14 notes, “Tobacco use costs Californians more than $13.29 billion in health care expenses every year, of which $3.5 billion is paid for by taxpayers through existing health care programs and services that provide health care, treatment, and services for Californians.”
The new law includes cigarettes and chewing tobacco. It exempts active military members, who can still buy tobacco from the age of 18 and up.
A study from the federal Institute of Medicine shows that about 90 percent of adults who smoke on a daily basis picked up the habit by the age of 19. The same research showed that boosting the legal age to 21 would prevent 200,000 premature deaths for kids born between years 2000 and 2019.
Santa Clara County raised the smoking age to 21 for unincorporated areas earlier this year.
This post has been updated.