By Izabella Santana
In an effort to curb smoking addiction among teenagers, California lawmakers proposed raising the legal age to 21 years old.
Under Sen. Ed Hernandez’ SB 151, California could be the first state to raise the smoking age to the same level as alcohol. Similar legislation in Utah, New Jersey, Colorado and Maryland failed.
Nine out of 10 minors who smoke make it a habit, and over 30,000 children in California start smoking every year according to the American Lung Association in California, which advocates against smoking and for clean air.
Dr. Fernando Ortiz, chair of the psychology department, agrees that starting young increases the likelihood of addiction.
“Nicotine affects a type of chemical in the brain called nicotinic receptors. When the brain is mature, they are not easily altered,” Ortiz said.
“The younger somebody is when they begin smoking cigarettes the more likely they will become addicted because their nicotinic receptors are more adaptive to the increased level of nicotine.”
Along with affecting the brain, smoking can destroy the body.
“Smoking has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, blindness, osteoporosis, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, premature births and stillbirths,” SAC health educator Christina Duong said. “There are chemicals in tobacco smoke that damage blood cells and damage the function of your heart putting one at risk for developing cardiovascular disease.”
State lawmakers have also targeted the use of electronic cigarettes. In San Francisco, Sen. Mark Leno proposed a bill that would forbid the use of “vape pens” in public places.
“Smoking at age 18 gives the person three additional years of exposure to the harmful chemicals,” Duong said.