In major victories for anti-tobacco advocates, the California Assembly voted Thursday to raise the smoking age to 21, regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products and take a variety of other steps aiming to restrict access to tobacco.
California would become just the second state to raise the smoking age from 18, joining the state of Hawaii and dozens of cities around the country that have already moved to the higher limit. The move comes days after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors increased the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21.
Ending months of stalling on legislation approved last year in the Senate, Assembly Democrats said the measure will prevent young people from taking up smoking. Proponents say it would make it much harder for teens to get access to tobacco because 18-year-old high school students would not be able to buy it for their underage friends.
"This will save the medical system in the outgoing years millions of dollars," said Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg. "It will save thousands of lives."
A landmark study from the prestigious Institute of Medicine reached a similar conclusion in an analysis published last year. The panel found that if the minimum legal age to buy tobacco were raised to 21 nationwide, tobacco use would drop by 12 percent by the time today’s teens reached adulthood. In addition, there would be 223,000 fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer,