California Raising Smoking Age to 21

Photo By Emilio Rodriguez / el Don
Photo By Emilio Rodriguez / el Don
Photo By Emilio Rodriguez / el Don

By Emilio Rodriguez

Starting in June the smoking age will change to 21 in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of senate and assembly bills, known as Tobacco 21, on May 4. It raises the legal age to buy tobacco and tobacco products from 18 to 21. California is the second state after Hawaii to do this along with 100 cities in the nation that have changed their individual laws. Several other states, including Utah and New Jersey, have raised their minimum age for tobacco use to 19.

The National Academy of Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Sciences (a nonprofit organization that provides national advice and information in the medical, scientific and engineering fields) reports that 90 percent of people who smoke began before the age of 19.  It found that if the age was raised from 18 to 21, tobacco use would drop by 12 percent by the time teens today become adults.

Military personnel and medical marijuana patients will be the only people who are exempt from new law.

Brown signed five bills related to regulating tobacco use, including the expansion of smoke-free areas and designating electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. Electronic cigarettes will now face the same restrictions as traditional cigarettes.

Supporters of the law say it will help deter young people from smoking. Opposers say that classifying electronic cigarettes is bad because they’re meant to get people away from smoking and now they’re being portrayed as the same thing.

Starting June 6, anyone who sells or gives tobacco to someone under 21 can be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime. The measure also allows counties to propose a higher tax than the 87 percent per box tax that is currently in effect.

“I don’t have a problem with it[the bill],” I think it will stop people from going down that path,” Luis Mejia, a Santa Ana College student, said. “I think when you’re 18 and you’re starting to smoke you think, ‘I’m an adult now’ and it’s more consequential than drinking alcohol.”

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One opponent, student Alfredo Seguralerma, says he is already inconvenienced by having to walk across the school campus, taking sometimes 10 minutes.

Santa Ana College already restricts students from smoking on campus but there are still people who are seen at SAC smoking vapes and e-cigarettes.

“I only smoke two days out of the week and I go smoke in the 7-Eleven parking lot across the street. I’m against it [the bill],” said Seguralerma. “

“I think it’s awesome,” said SAC Health Educator Christina Duong. “OK, you raise it three years, what’s that going to do? It’s three additional years that someone isn’t going to be exposed to it. Any small stuff we can take is an improvement.”

“We don’t like it,” said Raid Helala, an employee at Hookah and More Smoke Shop in the Bristol and Memory Lane shopping center. Most of their customers are between 20 to 24 and the shop predicts they will lose business in June due to the new law.

Similar bills were proposed earlier this year, like Assemblyman Kevin McCarty’s bill to prohibit use of any and all tobacco products, including vaping, on 136 California public college campuses.

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