California lawmakers have voted to increase the legal to purchase and use tobacco from 18 to 21, putting the state on the brink of becoming one of only two states (the other Hawaii) with a higher age limit.
Lawmakers agreed that the bill will help keep teenagers from forming addictive behaviors towards tobacco at an early age. This will also prevent 18-year-olds from buying cigarettes for their younger friends, which seems to be a common trend among the young. Furthermore, they said that this new bill will also help save billions of dollars in direct health care costs and ultimately save lives.
The bill has received approval despite opposition from tobacco interests and Republicans, who said that the government should respect people’s freedom to make their own health decisions even if those decisions are harmful.
E-cigarettes or vaping devices are treated as tobacco products and are subject to the same restrictions. The package of bills would also expand smoke-free areas to include bars, workplace breakrooms, small businesses, warehouses, and hotel lobbies and meeting rooms. Also, counties would be able to raise their own cigarette taxes beyond the state’s $0.87 per pack.
The bill is still awaiting signature from Gov. Jerry Brown before it could become law.