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California smoking and vaping age raised to 21

Posted on 05-25-16 in News & Announcements, Substance Abuse

California smoking and vaping age raised to 21

Soon, only those who are 21 years and older can buy tobacco to smoke, dip or chew, or nicotine to vape in the Golden State.

California just became the second state to raise the legal age for buying tobacco and nicotine products to 21, except for members of the military, who can still buy tobacco products at age 18. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed 5 out of 6 tobacco- and nicotine-related bills on May 4, 2016.

Key points of the new laws aim to:

  • Expand public areas where smoking is not permitted to include warehouses, casinos, motel lobbies and covered parking lots.
  • Expand the tobacco-free campus policy to include charter school facilities and small businesses.
  • Include electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, subject to the same restrictions as actual tobacco products.
  • Increase the licensing fees so that retailers pay $265 per year rather than a single payment of $100. Wholesalers’ fees will go up to $1200 per year from $1000. This bill goes into effect for the next fee cycle beginning Jan. 1, 2017.

The rest of the new tobacco laws go into effect June 9, 2016.

Effective deterrent?

According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 95 percent of adult smokers started smoking before age 21. This may be due to the fact that the brain is particularly vulnerable to toxins and addiction until it reaches full maturation at about the age of 25. By raising the legal age for tobacco purchase, the number of teen and young adult smokers is estimated to drop by about 12 percent, if all 50 states raise the age to 21.

While the laws are meant to deter the young from taking up smoking or vaping by keeping the products out of teenage peer groups, others say a better deterrent is raising the price of the products. Neither deterrent applies to members of the military.

After the bill was stalled for six months over the issue, lawmakers decided that if 18- to 20-year-olds are old enough to join the military, they should be able to by tobacco products. By not raising the legal age or taxing the military on tobacco products in shops on bases, the trend of smoking-related illness and death in veterans will likely continue.

Nicotine in any form

The one bill Gov. Brown vetoed would have allowed taxation of tobacco products by local governments. A coalition of organizations has already obtained and submitted the signatures needed to put the vetoed legislation onto the state ballot for voters to decide at the polls in November. If passed, cigarette tax will be increased from 87 cents per pack to $2.87 per pack, with the money reportedly going to cover medical expenses of those with tobacco-related diseases. The measure also cracks down on electronic cigarette marketing geared toward young children, such as the use of candy flavors and colorful cartoon labeling.

Vaping is becoming increasingly popular in youth, with usage among high school students tripling in just one year.

“We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar,” CDC director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in a statement. He further warned that exposure can harm brain development, and lead to sustained tobacco use and addiction.

Nicotine addiction is one of the most difficult to break, but many do with help. The Sovereign Health Group treats individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders and dual diagnosis. We emphasize nutrition and healthy lifestyle for long-term recovery while providing stabilization and treatment for acute problems and underlying causes. Comprehensive treatment includes novel, conventional and holistic therapies tailored for each individual client. Our ongoing continuing care program provides the support patients need to remain free from addiction and recover from all of its consequences. To find out more about specialized programs at Sovereign Health, please call us at our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. The Sovereign Health Group is a health information resource and Dr. Connolly helps to ensure excellence in our model. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at