May 05, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health
California Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed a sweeping series of tobacco control bills—an action that will undoubtedly save countless Californians from a deadly, lifetime addiction to nicotine.
“The California Medical Association thanks Gov. Brown, Senate and Assembly leadership, and the many legislators involved in passing the most robust package of tobacco control legislation in decades,” said Steven Larson, M.D., MPH, president of the California Medical Association (CMA). “California was once a leader in tobacco control. These laws move us toward restoring that leadership position.”
Tobacco use not only claims nearly 40,000 lives in California each year, but costs the state more than $13 billion in medical expenses and approximately $10.35 billion annually in lost productivity due to smoking-related diseases.
The bills signed into law will raise California's smoking age from 18 to 21; close loopholes in the state’s smoke-free workplace laws; require all schools be tobacco free; establish a tobacco licensing fee program under the state Board of Equalization; and, importantly, classify electronic cigarettes as tobacco products.
Last year, CMA joined with the state’s dentists, labor groups and other health advocates, to call for an increase in California’s tobacco tax, which has fallen to be among the lowest in the nation. The legislation was not part of the package of bills that made it to the governor’s desk.
“Increasing tobacco taxes has been proven to be the most effective way to curb teen smoking,” said Dr. Larson. “Though we’ve taken an important first step with passage of this package of bills, it will soon be California voters’ turn to finish the job by passing a tobacco tax increase to save lives and keep kids from smoking.”
CMA is a member of Save Lives California, a coalition dedicated to passing a $2-per-pack tobacco tax increase, with an equivalent increase on other tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes. Revenue generated by this user fee will fund existing health care programs, smoking prevention, and research into cures for cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. Save Lives California is currently gathering signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
For more information on Save Lives California, go to www.savelivesca.com.