Santa Clara County May Change Smoking Age to 21

The legal age to buy cigarettes may soon level up to the drinking age—at least for unincorporated Santa Clara County.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors agreed to return next month with draft ordinance that would up the tobacco purchasing age to 21.

If passed, the new law would go into effect Jan. 1 and make Silicon Valley the latest of dozens of jurisdictions to adopt a similar rule. San Jose City Councilman Don Rocha and Palo Alto City Councilwoman Liz Kniss have each expressed an interest in localizing the ordinance in their respective cities.

“After years of public health gains, smoking behaviors seem to be getting popular with youth again,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager, who initiated the ordinance. “We need aggressive measures to combat Big Tobacco’s increased efforts to hook young people on nicotine.”

About a dozen stores would be affected by the new rule, which also applies to e-cigarettes and vapes. Yeager’s proposal comes on the heels of a study commissioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that predicts smoking prevalence would fall about 12 percent by raising the purchasing age to 21. Smoking-related deaths would drop by about 10 percent, according to that same study.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Mother Yeager strikes again!! Butt TF out of peoples’ lives Kenny Boy! I smoked as a youth, but quit in 1970. Yeager & his BOS buddies are getting far too intrusive in other peoples’ lives. 18-20 year olds can vote and can sign up to die in some god forsaken hole of a country of goat “lovers”, but they won’t be able to smoke in Santa Clara County. Gimme a break!

      • I have no interest in managing your life, Cousin Cortese. I’m just pointing out how much company time you spend on non-company business as you post ceaselessly on SJI during the hours you should be devoting full time to the business of the folks paying your salary.

        • Why does it matter to you though? And what, if anything does it have to do with the topic or discussion?

          I have just as much right to post my opinions as you do, but the difference is instead of going down a line of “Hey Cortese, we disagree, here’s why” you steer the conversation towards personal jibes or cuts at my character.

          Grow up.

          • It is not a matter of my growing up, Cortese. It’s a matter of your character, which reflects on how one should view your opinions. You are STEALING TIME from your employer by spending so much time blogging while at work. Clearly you don’t get that, no surprise there; which is why I question your honesty, your character, your integrity, and therefore your opinions.

          • Weed point out rather snarkily that your posts come at the same timeframe as mine do e.g. work hours. Do you work nights? Or do you “STEAL TIME” as well to post here? Because your posts come at the same time mine do.

            In fact, I’d guess there’s probably something more important than commenting here that you should be doing. What are you “NEGLECTING” in your life to post here?

            I guess you should question your own honesty, character, and opinions.

    • JMO: “Yeager & his BOS buddies are getting far too intrusive in other peoples’ lives.” I agree.

  2. As long as we’re going to manage people’s lives for them for their own good, are are some things on my to do list:

    1. Change the age for anyone to get a tatoo to 25. {They’re still children under Obamacare).
    2. Change the age for anyone to get a body piercing to 49.
    3. Prohibit the sale of medicinal marijuana or medicinal tofu of medicinal kale within 2,500 feet of any school, church, day dare center, government office, saloon, gun store, or starbucks.

    Just listen to me folks, and we’ll get this oppressive society straightened out..

  3. Someone should tell the BoS that forcing 18-20 year olds to drive to San Jose, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Campbell, Morgan Hill or any other city within the county will cause global warming. Maybe that will end this silliness.

  4. I don’t understand how they will ever be able to make up the loss in tax revenue. Have they thought of taxing non smokers for clean air!
    I know we can lower the age for smoking medical marijuana and tax that some more, and a tax on smuggling it in to the county!

  5. Eighteen year olds must register for the Selective Service. They may vote. We’ve already decided that they are mature enough to die for the country and vote for its representatives. Therefore, they must be mature enough to choose whether or not to buy a pack of cigarettes.

  6. I don’t smoke and think it’s a nasty habit. However, why is there this belief that putting an arbitrary age limit on so called vices will reduce the number of partakers. There is still underage drinking, underage sexual activity, and no doubt there will be underage smoking.