California lawmakers have introduced new legislation that will make it even harder for kids and teens to smoke.
State Sen. Ed Hernandez recently introduced Senate Bill 151, a measure that, if passed, would raise the state’s minimum smoking age from 18 to 21. “Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age,” Hernandez said in a statement. “We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them.”
The proposed bill would be the first statewide legislation in the country to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. Similar proposals have been raised in New Jersey, Utah, Colorado and Maryland, but all have failed. In most states, the minimum age to smoke and/or buy cigarettes or tobacco products is 18 years old, but some have raised the age to 19. This type of legislation has been more successful at the city and county level, where some areas, including New York City, have managed to increase the legal smoking age to 21.
If passed, California Senate Bill 151 would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone younger than 21. It would also ban tobacco and smokeless tobacco advertisements that are geared to kids and teens younger than 21, and it would give law enforcement agencies the authority to perform random spot checks on retailers suspected of selling tobacco products to kids and teens.
According to the American Lung Association in California, nine out of 10 smokers pick up the habit before the age of 18, and 36,000 California kids start smoking each year.
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