By Devin Malone
On May 4, Governor Jerry Brown signed off on a five part bill that raised the smoking age from 18 to 21. The bill (SB X2-7) written by Senator Ed Hernandez was heavily backed by health organizations, such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, while strongly opposed by tobacco companies.
California is not the first state to raise the smoking age to 21. On January 1, Hawaii passed a similar bill that would try to reduce the amount of smokers. California’s passage of the act is a major victory for the opponents of the tobacco industry as it makes it difficult for minors to become addicted to nicotine. Surprisingly, many of the supporters also happen to be high school students.
“In all honesty, I believe it is a good thing that they raised the smoking age to 21. I don’t think it’s beneficial for students to start smoking in their teenage years,” senior Chloe Mejia said.
The reason why so many students are in favor of this bill is because more high school students are better informed of the risks of smoking than the previous generations.
Many believe that the recent senate bill will help reduce the high cancer mortality rate caused by teenage smoking. According to the Center of Disease Control, 63 percent of California’s smokers start by age 18, so raising the age is thought to minimize long-term smoking rates by 12 percent among minors.
In addition to combustible tobacco products such as cigars, pipes and cigarettes, electronic cigarettes have also been restricted, as they are considered a gateway drug for tobacco products.
“Ensuring that e-cigarettes fall under California’s comprehensive smoke-free laws is critical to protecting public health, especially given the alarming rate at which young people are picking up these devices,” California Senator Mark Leno told the Los Angeles (L.A.) Times.
However, the passage of SB X2-7 has caused some backlash, specifically from the pro-electronic cigarette organization, the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), an organization whose main source of income of profit came from the sale of e-cigarettes.
“Our industry, which was built by former smokers that morphed into small- and mid-sized businesses, has always supported sensible legislation, such as prohibitions on selling to minors, reasonable licensing requirements and child-resistant packaging,” an agent for SFATA told the L.A. Times.
Despite the backlash, many believe this is a major stride for the fight against tobacco addiction.