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SBx2-7 raises smoking age from 18 to 21

Governor Jerry Brown signed SBx2-7 on May 4th, making California the second state to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. Additionally, Brown signed other bills that will restrict the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and increase no-smoking areas at public schools. The bills were approved during a special session of the California State Legislature focusing on healthcare, and will go into effect on June 9th, 2016.

The bill was largely supported by a coalition known as Save Lives California that includes the California Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association. Research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows around 90% of tobacco users start before turning 21, and about 80% try tobacco before age 18. Currently, California and Hawaii are the only two states to raise the smoking age to 21. Alaska, Utah, Alabama and New Jersey all have a smoking age of 19, while the rest of the United States have a statutory minimum age of 18 to purchase tobacco.

Not surprisingly, the tobacco industry is striking back - the tobacco giants plan to seek a referendum vote to overturn these newly passed bills. The bill also now includes an exemption for active military, as earlier versions were criticized by Republicans who pointed out the disparity between allowing someone to join the army, but not purchase tobacco.

The new bills also clarify cloudy areas regarding electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are now considered tobacco products and therefore cannot be used in restaurants or bars, and cannot be marketed to minors. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the use of e-cigarettes by high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, and that e-cigarettes have become the most popular use of tobacco products amongst high school and middle school students.

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