California Lawmakers Propose Bill To Raise Smoking Age From 18 To 21

One California lawmaker has proposed a bill that would increase the legal smoking age in the state from 18 to 21. Democratic State Sen. Ed Hernandez introduced the bill today in an effort to make it harder for teens to get their hands on cigarettes.

According to NBC Bay Area, Senate Bill 151 was introduced today in an effort to combat teen smoking. The bill calls for the legal smoking age to be increased from 18 to 21 in the state of California. Senator Ed Hernandez says the bill is a response to tobacco companies’ marketing efforts.

“We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them.”

The L.A. Times reports that the bill has support from a variety of health groups across the state. In fact, Senator Hernandez, who introduced the bill, is a optometrist and feels the age increase will help address a major public health concern. Other health organizations, such as California Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association are all on board with Senate Bill 151.

Kimberly Amazeen, vice president for the American Lung Association of California, says that “bold steps forward” are needed to reduce tobacco use among youth as “smoking contributes to the deaths of more than 40,000 Californians each year.” Luther Cobb, president of the California Medical Association, agrees with Amazeen and sees the new legislation as a step to decreasing the number of preventable diseases.

“Increasing the age at which people can purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 will help reduce tobacco use in young people, hence reducing the number of preventable diseases.”

However, not everyone is on board with the proposed smoking age increase. In fact, Bill 151 will most likely be met by large push back from the tobacco industry and smoker’s rights groups. Robert Best, western regional representative of The Smoker’s Club, notes that the legislators should find better use of their time.

“It’s funny that the politicians in Sacramento have nothing better to do with their time than continually attack smokers as a minority. When you are 18 you are an adult and you get to do what you want.”

What do you think? Is smoking a large enough “public health concern” to warrant intervention by the government? Or is it is a waste of legislator time to debate issues such as minimum smoking age?