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Last year, the state of California followed in Hawaii’s footsteps and passed a landmark piece of legislation that increased the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. The age increase, along with other restrictions on tobacco and tobacco-related products, was supported by several special interest groups and lauded for its effort to save lives and ease the burden on an overworked healthcare system.
While no other state in the US has increased the legal smoking age since California did, some representatives are mulling over the impact it could have on their respective states.
In summation, smoking laws in California not only mandate 21 as the legal age to buy cigarettes, but all other tobacco products as well. That means you will have to be 21 to buy cigars and cigarillos, pipe tobacco, “snuff”, chewing tobacco, and any paraphernalia linked to tobacco use (for example, rolling papers and pipes).
In a move that surprised a lot of California residents, e-cigarettes and vaping materials were also included in the legislature even though many of those products are considered safer alternatives to smoking. Opponents to vaping purport that it’s an equally effective way to develop a nicotine addiction.
While the new California smoking legislature is pretty air tight, there is one legal way around the new law. Those in the military can still buy tobacco at the age of 18.
Recently, both New York and Oregon introduced bills that would also increase the legal age of buying tobacco to 21, and has produced mixed feelings from residents. In Oregon, skeptics of the legislature felt it is unnecessary given the fact that 18 is considered the age of adulthood in the US.
Many residents in both states believe that once people gain the ability to vote and join the military, they should be able to make their own choices regarding tobacco use.
Cameron Dekany, general manager of Oregon’s 82nd Avenue Tobacco and Pipes, said “If the problem is that 18-year-olds are not fully developed, then we shouldn’t send them to Iraq”.
New York’s Senate Health Committee Chairmen Kemp Hannon, while still supporting his states bill, expressed his reluctance that it would gain full support:
“I tend to think most people are in favor of it. But there are some others who don’t see it as a smoking issue, but simply: Should we be restricting people’s ability to make their own choices in life?”
Supporters of both bills, including the representatives responsible for authoring them, see them as a positive step toward deterring young people from picking up a habit that kills almost 500,000 Americans a year.
Christopher Friend, a spokesperson for the Oregon chapter of the American Cancer Society, stressed the importance of the age increase, stating “If you don’t start smoking before you are 21, you likely won’t be a smoker in your lifetime”.
Senators Diane Savino and Linda Rosenthal, sponsors to the New York bill, noted that “By raising the legal purchase age to 21, we will help prevent a generation of New Yorkers from becoming addicted to smoking and ultimately save thousands of lives.”
Whichever side of the fence you sit on, it’s becoming apparent that states are increasingly exploring statewide legislative changes regarding the legal age for consuming tobacco. Now more than ever, store employees and owners must pay close attention to ensure they are still abiding by the law.