Bills to fight tobacco, save lives clear first test in legislature special session

August 21, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health 

A California Senate committee has passed a package of tobacco-related bills that would boost regulations on e-cigarettes, increase the tobacco purchasing age to 21, allow local jurisdictions to tax tobacco distributers – ultimately saving lives.

The package of bills would also close existing loopholes in smoke-free workplace laws, require all schools in the state to be tobacco-free and change the one-time tobacco licensing fee to an annual licensing fee.

The bills passed out of the new Senate Committee on Public Health and Developmental Services, marking the first victory in the bills’ journey through the legislature’s special session on health care.

Kimberly Amazeen, vice president of public policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association in California, praised the legislative committee for its action on Wednesday.

“Not only will this package of bills increase public health, but they will reduce teen smoking, which in turn will result in less heart disease, stroke and other smoking-related illnesses,” Amazeen said in a statement. “This step in the Senate represents a move toward immediate life-saving policy in California, which is why such a broad and diverse coalition has come together supporting this package of bills.”

That coalition is Save Lives California, which is composed of a variety of health care providers and health advocacy organizations, including the California Medical Association (CMA) and the American Lung Association in California. The coalition advocates saving lives and money by reducing tobacco use in the state.

Following the committee’s vote, Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), author of the bill to place new regulations on e-cigarettes, said California cannot sit back while “a new generation of young people becomes addicted” to nicotine.

“We should be alarmed and infuriated that one of the fastest-growing segments of e-cigarette users is middle and high school students,” Leno said in a statement, adding, “We must intervene now to protect children and the public health of non-smokers and smokers alike.”

California is currently falling short on its legislative solutions to curb cancer, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. And, about one-third of all cancer-related deaths in the United States are attributed to tobacco use.

For more information on CMA’s efforts to fight tobacco use, go to www.savelivescalifornia.com.

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