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CA Legislature Votes to Raise Smoking Age, Clamp Down on E-Cigarettes

The California State Assembly approved legislation on Thursday to raise the smoking age to 21 and regulate e-cigarettes. (trostle/morguefile)
The California State Assembly approved legislation on Thursday to raise the smoking age to 21 and regulate e-cigarettes. (trostle/morguefile)
March 4, 2016

The California state Assembly on Thursday took historic action to curb smoking in the Golden State, overwhelmingly passing a series of bills in a controversial special session on health care.

Senate Bill 5 would regulate e-cigarettes such as tobacco would ban vaping in bars, restaurants, workplaces and schools, and would require child-resistant packaging for vaping products. Another bill, SB 7, would raise the smoking age from 18 to 21, except for active-duty military personnel.

Beverly May, western region director of advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said high schoolers would have a much harder time getting cigarettes from older friends.

"You're able to intervene from the 15- or 16-year-old being able to get that cigarette from the 19-year-old," she said. "It just takes them away further, and what we want to do is delay that onset of youth picking up that first cigarette."

Another bill was passed to allow California counties to establish their own tobacco taxes.

Opponents argued that the bills are effectively tax increases that should require a two-thirds vote. All still need final approval in the state Senate, where they are expected to pass, before heading to the governor's desk.

Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU, a union that's part of the "Save Lives California Coalition," said she's optimistic that Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the bills.

"This is a governor that chose to expand Medicaid to millions of Californians and has proven to really care about the health of this state," she said, "and we hope that that continues."

The Save Lives Coalition is sponsoring a ballot measure this November to go even further and raise the state tobacco tax by $2 a pack.

Details of SB 7 are online here, and details of SB 5 are here.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA