California lawmakers voted Thursday to up the smoking age to 21 and add electronic cigarettes to state tobacco regulations.
With final approval in the Senate, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the measure into law and allow the Golden State to join Hawaii in increasing the age of tobacco sales to 21.
“These actions represent the strongest steps California has taken to fight tobacco use in nearly two decades,” Matthew Myers, the campaign's president, said in a statement. “They will protect children from tobacco addiction, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.”
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said at least 135 cities and counties have raised the tobacco age to 21 in nine states, including New York, Boston and Cleveland.
“We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21,” Myers said. “The increase in the tobacco age will help counter the industry’s efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students.”
Tobacco kills nearly half a million Americans a year and costs the nation upward of $170 billion in healthcare cost annually. If the current trend continues, the campaign estimates 5.6 million of today’s youth will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness.