Save Lives California announces package of tobacco-related legislation

April 13, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health 

Save Lives California, a coalition supported by the California Medical Association (CMA), joined local lawmakers at the state Capitol to announce a broad, multi-legislative effort with a single unifying goal: Saving lives from the public health threat posed by Big Tobacco.

The effort revolves around five bills in the state legislature that would raise the tobacco tax by $2-per-pack (SB 591, Pan), help keep tobacco out of the hands of youth by raising the minimum age to 21 (SB 151, Hernandez), regulate e-cigarettes (SB 140, Leno), ban tobacco products in the state’s ballparks (AB 768, Thurmond) and expand access to health care for low income Californians (AB 1396, Bonta).

Two of the proposed laws — SB 140 and SB 151 — were discussed by the Senate Health Committee the day of the announcement. Both were approved and will now head to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

“These are five critically important pieces of legislation with momentum that is picking up as we realize what a huge dent they could make in the tobacco-related challenges we face on multiple fronts here in California,” said three-time cancer survivor Laura Tyrrell. Tyrrell’s mother and father both died of lung cancer.

SB 140 cracks down on e-cigarettes, subjecting them to many of the state rules that apply to other tobacco products, such as the prohibition of smoking in certain public areas. Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said he authored the bill to address a “very serious health crisis and potential unfolding of a new health crisis.”

“It doesn’t ban them [e-cigarettes]. It doesn’t impede innovation. It doesn’t do anything other than regulate them as tobacco products,” Leno said. “This is a very fast-growing industry, and it is totally unregulated.”

The health committee approved Leno’s bill as amended on a 6-1 vote.

SB 151, on the other hand, would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 — a move that would result in far fewer young people becoming addicted to nicotine, according to the bill’s author, Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina).

A recent Institute of Medicine report shows that when the minimum purchasing age for tobacco is increased, there is a decreased use of tobacco by young people.

“We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while Big Tobacco markets to our children and gets another generation of young individuals hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them,” said Hernandez, a few hours before the bill passed through the health committee on a 9-0 vote.

“Today I’m very proud to stand with my colleagues and allies to support a number of bills that will curb the devastating impacts of tobacco in California and set a new precedent for other states to follow,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), author of AB 1396.

The Saves Lives Coalition, a group of doctors, nurses, health care workers, hospitals and others including CMA, supports all five of the bills. For more information on Save Lives California, visit www.savelivesca.com.


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