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California Raises Legal Smoking Age To 21

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Author: Shernide Delva

California has been one of the most progressive states when it comes to marijuana. After all, they were one of the first states to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. However, the state is having the opposite approach to tobacco products. A new measure signed Wednesday officially made California the second state to raise the legal smoking age to 21.

What?! You say. Well, the decision comes after study after study revealed that raising the smoking age to 21 would automatically deter 15% of people ages 18-20 from using tobacco products in the first place. The measure was one of five signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to further restrict smoking in the state. Other laws have been passed to expand funding for anti-smoking programs and regulating e-cigarettes.

The law officially will go into effect on June 6. Any company caught selling tobacco products after this time to those under 21 will be fined up to $5000. This is not limited to just cigarettes. This includes all tobacco products: cigarettes, e-cigarettes, gums, and chewing tobacco.

“It is long past due for California to update our approach to tobacco,” said Steven Larson, president of the California Medical Association. “There has been an alarming rise in the use of e-cigarettes by teens, putting them at risk for lifelong addiction.”

It has been estimated that over 90% of regular smokers begin using before the age of 19.  I can vouch for that seeing that several of my friends admit starting to smoke in high school.  Often, smoking is seen as an 18-year-old rite of passage since it is a few years before 21, the legal age for drinking alcohol.

Still, the tobacco industry is fighting back. Many tobacco companies stated they would try to overturn the bill if passed. Now that the bill has passed, it is a matter of time before companies move forward with this threat. They will need to collect 360,000 signatures by early August to legally reject these new regulations.

The law does make some exceptions. Anyone who has served in the military who is 18 and older will still be able to buy tobacco products. This decision resulted from many veteran groups and Republican lawmakers making the argument that if one is allowed to die for the country, they should be able to decide to use tobacco.  The push for this exception stalled the bill from being passed for over six months.

In January, Hawaii became the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21. The state also made the groundbreaking decisions to treat e-cigarettes the same as regular cigarettes. Hawaiians under 21 years old who violate the law will receive a $10 fine for the first offense and a $50 fine along with community service for the second and future offense.

Study after study is released that reveal the dangers of e-cigarettes. One study even showed a link between e-cigarettes and “popcorn lung.” Popcorn lung is a disease that comes from the artificial flavoring used in e-cigarettes. The name first appeared when popcorn factory worker developed the respiratory condition from the artificial butter flavoring. The new study compared the artificial flavoring in e-cigarettes to the flavoring that was used in these facilities.

Furthermore, more than 100 cities and counties, including New York City, have adopted similar measures.  Cigarette smoking continues to be a controversial manner. In the recovery community, it is estimated that more than 80 to 95 percent of addicts are regular smokers.  Often, those in recovery continue to smoke or smoke more after ceasing to abuse other substances.

For years, addiction therapists warned against advising addicts to quit smoking in rehab. Now, some addiction counselors are finding that success rates for quitting smoking are higher for those who are concurrently seeking treatment.

Regardless of the health benefits of quitting smoking, many people disagree with the state’s decision to raise the age of smoking to 21. What do you think? Should those 18 and over be given the right to choose to smoke?  Smoking has proven negative health consequences; however it is not as detrimental as an addiction to substances like illegal drugs and alcohol.  If you are struggling with overcoming any addiction, get professional help today.

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