The California Assembly voted late last week to raise the smoking age to 21, regulate electronic cigarettes and take a variety of other steps aiming to restrict access to tobacco, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
California would become one of the first states to raise the smoking age from 18, joining dozens of cities around the country that have already moved to the higher limit.
Proponents of the measure said it will be more difficult for teens to get access to tobacco because 18-year-old high school students would not be able to buy it for their underage friends.
“This will save the medical system in the outgoing years millions of dollars,” Assemblyman Jim Wood told the AP. “It will save thousands of lives.”
Republicans said the government should not restrict people’s freedom to make their own decisions.
Although most K-12th-grade schools are tobacco-free campuses, the bills would make it a mandatory requirement.
The bills also would require that e-cigarettes be regulated like tobacco products, impose new restrictions on workplace smoking and expand tobacco bans to more schools. Counties would be able to raise their own cigarette taxes beyond the state’s levy.
The bills now return to the Senate, which must approve changes made in the Assembly before the legislation can reach Gov. Jerry Brown.
The age to purchase tobacco would remain 18 for members of the military who reside in the state.
Hawaii was the first state to raise the tobacco purchasing age. Boston recently raised the legal age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21, and Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a similar measure.
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