Legal Smoking Age May Soon Be 21

Stephanie Ramirez, Staff Writer

California lawmakers have voted to raise the age of buying cigarettes from 18 to 21, as well as regulating the use of electronic cigarettes and the bill has gone to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for approval.

If the law passes, electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, will be banned from public areas, such as restaurants, theaters, and other areas where smoking is not allowed.

This may be a good idea for some, but to others, it’s unfair. According to the American Cancer Society, 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, disagrees with the measure and says that 18 year olds are able to decide for themselves if they wish to smoke or not.

Save Lives California, a coalition between the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association in California and the American Cancer Society, came up with the idea in late 2015.

A tax on health care plans was approved by the legislature on March 14 which is when the organization decided to bring up the bill.
Republicans tried to block the action, stating that the tobacco bills “were not appropriate for a special session.” After a 48-hour stretch, the votes were collected and the bill was approved by 46-26.

Smoking cigarettes is the single largest preventable cause of death in the U.S. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention period. It costs more than $300 billion a year, which also includes $170 billion of medical care for many adults.

The chemicals used in many tobacco products include acetone, an ingredient that is used in nail polish remover; carbon monoxide, a chemical released in car exhaust fumes; and lead, which is found in batteries.
Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but still contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Some e-cigarette products contain nearly the same chemicals as a cigarette. They include formaldehyde, a proven toxin.

Nancy Medina, a psychology major at GCC, says that it’s a good thing to raise the age from 18 to 21. “I do think lawmakers should raise the limit age because I think cigarettes are way worse than alcohol and 18 eighteen-year-olds are still in high school and still aren’t fully mentally stable to make huge decisions like that” Medina said.
Mathematics major Miguel Sanchez and Social Science major Kelly Quintana, both believe the bill has its perks as well as downfalls.

“It’s good in a sense that in a way, keeps the younger generation a little more away from the cigarettes. Bad in the sense that those who are like 18, 19, 20, are already addicted to cigarettes or accustomed to smoking cigarettes and they won’t be able to get them anymore and since the age might get higher, they may experience withdrawal effects, which makes matters worse for them,” Sanchez said.

“It’s a good thing cause that way, kids don’t smoke early and get health problems earlier, but it’s also a bad thing, cause if they do it earlier and they find out how disgusting and ridiculous it is, they won’t do it later on in life. I think they should just make it legal at eighteen,” Quintana added.

Additional bills approved on March 17 are: raising the licensing fee for tobacco retail stores from $100 to $250 annually; increasing e tobacco-free campuses laws for charter Charter and public schools; and expanding the ban of tobacco use into workplaces, such as gambling clubs, warehouses and workstations.

Nadia Emma, the manager at of the Mobil gas station on the corner of Mountain Street and Verdugo Road says raising the age has its pros and cons.

“The pros are that it will reduce a lot of bad things that cigarette smoking causes, like lung cancer and all that kind of stuff by raising the age.”

When it came to the con aspect, Emma included the business aspect. “The con is that it will slow down business and increase more fake I.Ds.”
Emma also claims that with California trying to raise sales tax for tobacco products, it will not only hurt businesses, but also hurt clients.
As of right now, cities approved to raise the age in buying cigarettes are San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Kansas City and Cleveland. The only current state in the U.S. that passed the law is Hawaii.

If Gov. Brown decided to approve the bill, California will be the second state in the U.S. that has raised the age restriction to 21.

“I feel like smoking is a habit people just do because everyone else is doing it, but when they actually stop and think, ‘This is stupid, why am I doing this?’ they’ll just stop,” Quintana said.