The state Senate this week approved a bill that would raise California’s minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Sen. Ed Hernandez introduced the bill in an effort to reduce smoking and tobacco use by the state’s young people. Tobacco use among California’s youth is a major problem with nearly 36,000 youth who start smoking each year. Hawaii is the only other state attempting to raise its smoking age, which is currently under consideration. However, other states such as Alabama, Alaska, Utah and New Jersey have set their smoking age to 19.
Does raising the smoking age solve the tobacco use problem among youth? Is it a realistic deterrent, is 21 too high? Should we also raise the minimum age for other things, like joining the military or voting? The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration. If signed into law California would be one of the first states in the U.S. to increase the smoking age to 21.
Tom Briant, Executive Director, National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO), a national trade association for tobacco retailers based in Minnesota