A Bold New California Law Is Limiting Access to Tobacco Products
California, a longtime bastion for health-conscious initiatives, has added another mold-breaking law to its accomplishments. Yesterday (June 9), the most populous state in the country officially raised the tobacco smoking and purchasing age to 21, whereas the rest of the country maintains the age limit of 18. But that’s not all. California is also setting the tone for regulations on e-cigarettes, banning them from being used in hospitals, restaurants, schools, and other public places. Also home to one of the most liberal right-to-die mandates in the nation, California follows Hawaii’s lead in its newly implemented tobacco laws, and its decision could very well influence similar decisions elsewhere.
According to USA Today, “the Institute of Medicine found that if all states required a minimum age to purchase tobacco 21, it would lead to a 12% drop in smokers,” a hefty percentage that would likely translate into a sharp decline in smoking-related diseases such as emphysema, lung cancer, and other potentially fatal illnesses. Backed by organizations like the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, the new bill includes a provision that “all e-cigarette and vapor products will be reclassified as traditional tobacco products in the law,” effectively eliminating any legal difference between a vape and a cigarette.
Although it just went into effect this week, California’s new law has been in the making for at least a year. In March of 2015, the Institute of Medicine published a sprawling nearly hour-long webinar about the relationship between raising the smoking age and the improvement of public health. The densely packed and highly detailed presentation is exhaustive, and includes all of the data that led the institute to its conclusion that raising the smoking age to 21 would prove to be so effective in limiting access to things like cigarettes and cigars. Even prior to that, John Oliver delivered a more humorous (but no less informative) examination of tobacco on an episode of Last Week Tonight.
With all of the backlash against the tobacco industry made famous by frequent advertisements from the Truth Campaign, it’s no surprise that government bodies are getting involved in addressing the ills of smoking. Awareness of the harms in smoking is likely higher today than it has ever been before, and attempts to curtail the use of tobacco, especially among young people of color, has seen a spike in vigor as of late. In fact, anti-smoking campaigns have even drawn inspiration from the Hip-Hop inspired television show Empire for a series of ads directly targeting Black and Latino youth.