Lawmakers from California are stepping forward on the fight against one of the most dangerous habit there is among young people, tobacco. In that sense, the California Assembly passed a series of comprehensive bills that would, among other things, raise the legal age for buying cigarettes and allow counties to raise taxes on their own.

Research has showed that smoking is bad for health; this is not open to discussion anymore. However, the Legislature is interested particularly in the health of youngsters. 18 year-olds can legally buy cigarettes in many states and experts argue that even younger people – say 14 year-olds – are able to access tobacco products with the help of slightly older friends.

These boys were playing pool and smoking in the pool room while waiting for papers. The smallest boy is 9 years old and sells until 9 P.M. St. Louis in May 1910. Credit: Library of Congress

According to a study published by the Institute of Medicine, 90 percent of adult smokers first use cigarettes before turning 19. The problem with smoking is that the brains of boys and girls are still developing when they are starting to smoke and the implications on their health are not good. They have not even finished high school when they begin with the bad habit. Moreover, at young ages, people are more likely to become addicted.

The same study concluded that changing the legal age to 21 should prevent 223,000 premature deaths and “collectively add 4.2 million years to the lives of those born between 2000 and 2019”. So, raising the legal age to buy the lethal puffers will help to prevent teenagers to access cigarettes since the distance between both demographics – 14 year-olds and 21 year- olds – is bigger.

It is not a perfect solution and some people are skeptical. George Skelton from LA times, says that authorities can’t even enforce the age 18 limit. Nonetheless, almost three-quarters of adults support changing the legal age to 21, according to a paper by researchers at the CDC.

“Kids get smokes at 14 or whenever they want,” Skelton wrote in an article published today. “What’s to stop the 18-year-olds from being supplied by those who are 21, and then passing them down to little sister” he added.

However, Skelton gives credits to Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), for passing the age limit bill. Opponents of this bill would say that it doesn’t make sense for 18-year olds to go to war and die for their country but not being allowed to buy cigarettes. This led to an agreement about the exemption of active military personnel from the rule, and the bill passed 49 to 25.

Six bills constitute the package to stand up against Big Tobacco power and money

We already talked about the most resonating bill there is about cigarettes this week in California. There are five more bills that might have an important impact on other issues related to the smokes like vaping, taxes, and tobacco-free campus policy, among others. Here is a summary of all the tobacco bills passed by the Legislature.

The second most interesting bill is the one about imposing taxes. Lawmakers decided that the better way to tackle this issue was to allow counties to seek voter approval of a local tobacco tax. In this way, there is only need for a simple majority to raise taxes in contrast with the two-thirds of votes needed if they wanted to do it for themselves.

By the end of the last century, California managed to hike tobacco taxes by the will of the popular vote, so this decision is coherent with the record. However the taxes in this state are very low for tobacco products, ranking 35 in the country. The national average tax on a pack is $1.61.

But what is important is that the main reason behind this decision is to send the extra revenue earned by tobacco sales to public health programs to help people leave the bad habit of puffing smoke out of their lungs. Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), passed the Assembly on a 46-27 vote, which depending on the way you see it, was somewhere far the 54 votes needed for the two-thirds mentioned above.

Is this kind of a growing movement to reduce cigarette use and fatal consequences?

San Francisco, Hawaii and New York City have raised smoking age to 21. The Joint Committee on Public Health from Massachusetts has released an act to protect Young people from the risks of tobacco addictions. Among other provisions, there is a prohibition to sell nicotine related products to individuals under 21.

A report from Canada called “Smoking Tobacco in Canada, 2015” has found that there has been a steady decline in smoking tobacco sales, accompanied by a falling consumption since 2003 across Canada. The factors explaining this trend are mainly tax rises and illicit consumption.

Source: LA Times