March 10, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health
California legislators continued to crack down on smoking Thursday when the state Senate approved a landmark series of tobacco regulation bills as a means to reduce tobacco use and save lives, especially among youth.
The six bills now head to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, who has 12 days to sign them.
The bills would raise California’s smoking age to 21; begin classifying e-cigarettes as tobacco products; close loopholes in the state’s smoke-free workplace laws; require all schools to be tobacco-free; allow county governments to put tobacco taxes up for local votes; and update the state’s tobacco licensing fee program.
“We can’t afford to sit on the sidelines any longer,” said Senator Ed Hernandez, speaking on behalf of SB 7 X2, his authored bill that would increase California’s smoking age. “It’s time for California to lead the way in tobacco control once again.”
If the governor signs the package of bills, California would be the second state in the country to increase the age to buy tobacco products to 21, and one of the few to regulate e-cigarettes like other tobacco products.
Following the bill’s passage, the California Medical Association (CMA) released a statement applauding the Senate’s action, calling it the “most sweeping set” of tobacco legislation in decades.
“It’s clear that California is ready to move forward and implement tobacco reform that has a real impact on the future of health care,” said CMA President Steven E. Larson, M.D., MPH.
“We must now look forward to November and use this momentum to pass the $2-per-pack tobacco tax ballot measure,” he added.
CMA, as a member of Save Lives California coalition, is currently collecting signatures to qualify the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 for the November ballot. The initiative will increase the state’s tobacco tax from its current $0.87 per pack – a rate that hasn’t been changed since 1998 – to $2.87 per pack. That tax will also apply to other tobacco products containing nicotine, such as e-cigarettes.
The ballot measure will save lives and reduce teen smoking, as well as generate revenue for many of the state’s underfunded health care programs. Ninety percent of people who smoke start as teens, and studies show that for every 10 percent increase in the cost of tobacco products, teen smoking drops by up to 6.5 percent.
Learn more about the Save Lives California ballot initiative by visiting www.savelivesca.com.