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Age To Buy Tobacco In California


California is the second state to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. A similar law went into effect in Hawaii on Jan. 1. Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a sweeping package of tobacco bills into California law on Wednesday, including one that will raise the legal age to buy products from 18 to 21 and another that dramatically tightens restrictions on e-cigarettes.

California becomes just the second state after Hawaii to raise the lawful age to buy tobacco products, a move that backers applaud as a certain way to curtail harm to adolescents, and reduce the number of adult smokers.

"What this means for California is now we can know that our youth are less likely to be addicted to this horrible drug of tobacco," he says. "There's going to be less addiction to tobacco, [and] we're going to reduce health care costs and save lives."

The law, which will take effect June 9, applies to all 18 to 20-year-olds, except military personnel. The bill had stalled for months until a compromise was reached to permit service members under 21 to continue purchasing tobacco.

Adolescents are at particular risk for nicotine addiction because their brains are still developing, says longtime tobacco critic, Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

While California is seen as tough on tobacco, it ranks 36th in the country on per-pack taxes. A 2012 ballot initiative to raise taxes by $1 per pack failed by less than half a percentage point after the tobacco industry spent $47 million to defeat it.

Strikingly, another survey showed that the median age of smoking initiation was12.6 years old. Youth, aged 16 and under, primarily used five tobacco products:electronic cigarettes, cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and hookah.8 Youth, which the WHO defines as those under the age of 24,9 who started using any of these products at or before the age of 13 weremuch more likely to become current daily users of the above products anddeveloped nicotine dependence.8

Seven months after the law was passed, awareness of the law was at 98.6% amongtobacco retail owners, managers, and clerks, with more than 60% of themsupporting the law. Furthermore, 85.6% of those surveyed agreed that it was easyto comply with the law, and 90.7% stated that it was easy to train staff tocomply with the law.

The minimum purchasing age for tobacco in the United States before 2020 varied by state and territory. Since December 20, 2019, the smoking age in all states and territories is 21 after federal law was passed by Congress and signed by former President Donald Trump.

State tobacco laws partly changed in 1992 under the Bill Clinton administration when Congress enacted the Synar Amendment, forcing states to create their own laws to have a minimum age of eighteen to purchase tobacco or else lose funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.[4] The amendment was passed in response to the teenage smoking rates.[5] All states raised their ages to either eighteen or nineteen by 1993. In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration enacted regulations making the federal minimum age eighteen,[6] though later the U.S. Supreme Court later terminated the FDA's jurisdiction over tobacco, ending its enforcement practices and leaving it up to states.[7]

In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was enacted under the Barack Obama administration, once again setting a federal minimum age of eighteen and prohibited the FDA from setting a higher minimum purchase age.[8] From 1993 to 2012, the smoking age in all states was either eighteen or nineteen. In 2005, the town of Needham, Massachusetts became the first jurisdiction in the country to raise the minimum purchase age to 21.[9] Between 2012 and 2015, local municipalities across the U.S. began raising their smoking ages to twenty-one, with Hawaii

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