Gov. Brown Raises Smoking Age to 21 in California

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on May 05, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Despite predictable resistance and noise from the tobacco industry, the California legislature overwhelmingly passed a pair of bills that raised the smoking age from 18 to 21 throughout the state and broadened regulation of vaping, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco-related products. Governor Brown signed the legislation without comment and without delay.

Public health advocates have generally voiced approval for the move. Cynical lawyers also approve as droves of late teens stand to violate the new law post-haste.

A Lonely Minority

Only but a handful of states within this country have deviated from the 18 year smoking standard that has been the convention for as long as most people can remember. New Jersey and a few East Coast states have minimum smoking ages of 19. As of the signing of the legislation, California and Hawaii are the only two states which impose a minimum age of 21 for smokers.

What's Regulated

The two bills impose age restrictions on pretty much any popular tobacco form: chewing, vaping, e-cigarettes, smoking, etc. Additionally, licensing fees will apply. These additional requirements brought the predictable resistance from tobacco interests.

No New (Local) Taxes

Another bill passed before Gov. Brown before getting vetoed: a bill that would allow local municipalities and cities to set their own taxation schemes on tobacco products. Mr. Brown commented his reticence to pass the bill in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot. Our guess is that he is attempting to keep the ballot clean -- a bit like our lungs.

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