A San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee voted Monday to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The vote of the Land Use Committee was 3-0 to prohibit retailers from selling tobacco products -- including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes -- to those under age 21.
The full board will consider the ordinance next Tuesday, March 1. If the measure passes and is signed by the mayor, San Francisco would join more than 120 cities nationally -- including Boston and New York -- in approving the change. Hawaii raised the age statewide, effective Jan. 1. In California, Healdsburg and Berkeley have both approved the higher age. A bill in the California Assembly to raise the age statewide stalled last fall.
Proponents of the change say that many teenagers access cigarettes and other tobacco products from friends who are old enough to legally buy them. Raising the age to 21 moves legal buyers out of the social circle of most high school students, advocates say.
"This is an important public health issue," said Supervisor Scott Wiener, one of the sponsors of the ordinance, who said that teenagers who take up smoking are more likely to get "hooked for the long term," but those who start older are less likely to do so.
"If we can make it harder for young people to get access to tobacco, we will see significant public health benefits," he said.