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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

age to buy tobacco in california


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 becoming the first state to raise its age to twenty-one in 2015.[10] This began the shift in states eventually raising their ages to twenty-one due to the teenage vaping crisis.[11] By 2019, eighteen states had their minimum purchase ages at twenty-one, thirty states had their ages at eighteen, two had it at nineteen and the District of Columbia had it at twenty-one. On December 20, 2019, with the enactment of the Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2020 signed by President Donald Trump, the federal smoking age was raised to twenty-one by changing the minimum purchase age in the 1992 Synar Amendment.[12] The United States Department of Defense followed, raising the age to purchase tobacco to twenty-one on military bases in the U.S. and abroad.[13]

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). These battery-operated devices (such as e-cigarettes, e-cigars, vapes, vape pens, cartridges, tanks, and mods) turn special liquid, which contains nicotine, into an aerosol. The user inhales the aerosol. The liquids might contain nontobacco flavors, such as fruit or mint flavors. Users also can add flavors separately.

Other Tobacco Products. Other tobacco products can be used by smoking, inhaling, chewing, or other ways. These products include cigars, chewing tobacco, loose leaf tobacco, shisha tobacco (typically used in hookahs, a type of waterpipe), smokeless tobacco, heated tobacco, and nicotine pouches. Similar to ENDS, these products might have nontobacco flavors.

According to survey data, around 10 percent of adults and youth in California use tobacco products. Surveys suggest that adults are much more likely than youth to smoke cigarettes regularly, while youth are more likely than adults to use ENDS products regularly. Among cigarette smokers, surveys suggest that about 20 percent of adults and about 50 percent of youth use menthol cigarettes. Surveys suggest that most ENDS users (both adults and youth) use flavored products.

Tobacco use and secondhand smoke increase the risk of many health problems, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, and complications during pregnancy. The federal, state, and local governments have implemented various laws and regulations aimed at protecting the public from the harmful health effects of tobacco.

Federal Government Regulates Tobacco Products. Federal law approved in 2009 gives the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing, sale, and distribution of tobacco products. Federal law also requires the FDA to review and authorize new tobacco products, such as ENDS, before they can be sold legally. Federal regulations specifically affecting flavored tobacco products include:

FDA Recently Proposed Rules Banning Menthol From Cigarettes. In April 2022, the FDA proposed (1) banning menthol-flavored cigarettes and (2) banning all nontobacco flavored cigars. The FDA now is deciding whether to finalize these bans.

State and Local Governments Can Have Additional Rules for Tobacco. While they cannot change product standards, state and local governments can have additional, stricter rules for tobacco. For example, California raised the minimum age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21 in 2016, a few years before the federal government did so nationwide in 2019.

Many Local Governments Have Banned Certain Sales of Flavored Tobacco Products. Around one-third of Californians live in areas with rules banning certain sales of flavored tobacco products. Most of these local policies include a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes.

As shown in the figure, most state tobacco tax revenue goes to health care programs. For example, tobacco taxes are one of many funding sources for the Medi-Cal program. (The federal-state Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal in California, provides health coverage to eligible low-income California residents.) Tobacco taxes also fund tobacco control efforts, such as preventing tobacco sales to youth.

Bans Most Sales of Flavored Tobacco Products and Tobacco Product Flavor Enhancers. Proposition 31 (SB 793) prohibits in-person stores and vending machines from selling most flavored tobacco products or tobacco product flavor enhancers. The proposition does not ban shisha (hookah) tobacco sold and used at the store, certain cigars, or loose-leaf tobacco.

Defines Flavored Tobacco Products. Proposition 31 defines flavored tobacco products as those that have a flavor, apart from the regular tobacco flavor. For example, the flavor could include fruit, mint, menthol, honey, chocolate, or vanilla. The proposition defines a tobacco product flavor enhancer as a product that creates a flavor when added to a tobacco product.

Lower Tobacco Tax Revenues. Proposition 31 likely would reduce state tobacco tax revenues by an amount ranging from tens of millions of dollars to around $100 million annually. (Last year, state tobacco tax revenue was about $2 billion.) This revenue loss would reduce funding for the types of programs listed in Figure 1, such as health care.

A NO vote on this measure means: In-person stores and vending machines could continue to sell flavored tobacco products and tobacco product flavor enhancers, as allowed under other federal, state, and local rules.

Around 38 million people presently live in California, the most populous of the United States. The minimum age to buy cigars and other tobacco products in California is presently 21, as it has been in every U.S. state since the law was changed in 2019.

There is precedent for such legislation, but not in the United States. This move would mimic a New Zealand law that since the first of the year has banned tobacco sales to anyone born in or after 2009.

The California Legislature will soon consider Assembly Bill 935 which would ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after January 1, 2007. As the state prohibits the sale of flavored tobacco products and maintains a legal smoking age of 21 years old the market is already over regulated. This new restriction would further push tobacco products into the black market, causing more harm to consumers in the long run. For the health and welfare of the state population, lawmakers need to keep their hands off the tobacco market and promote policies aimed at harm reduction. 041b061a72

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