California bills would raise the age of vaping and smoking to 21


Two bills in the California legislature have the potential to change how people smoke and vape in the state.

AB 151 and AB 216

A person must be at least 18 to buy tobacco products in California. Assembly Bill 151, introduced last January, will, if passed, raise the smoking age in the state to 21. On the California Legislative Information website, the bill’s status is still listed as Introduced.

California law prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under 18. The law defines an electronic cigarette as any device that can deliver an inhalable dose of nicotine in a vaporized solution. Assembly Bill 216, signed by Governor Brown last October, extends the prohibition to minors of any devices capable of delivering non-nicotine products in a vaporized solution. If AB 151 passes, all provisions of AB 216 will be amended to reflect the new legal age for smoking.

Has opposition vaporized?

According to USA Today, vaping is a $900 million industry in the U.S. Other estimates put it as high as $1.5 billion. Last August, the California Senate voted in favor of raising the smoking age from 18 to 21. The Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation asserts that by raising the legal age limit, California will save over $100 million in healthcare costs. Conversely, the state will lose out on nearly $75 million in tobacco tax revenue.

Big tobacco vigorously opposed SB 151 and the other five anti-tobacco laws passed during a special Senate session convened to address healthcare issues. But the only reference to California lawmakers on the American Vaping Association (AVA) website has to do with SB 140, which expanded the definition of tobacco products to include electronic cigarettes and other devices capable of delivering a vaporized payload of nicotine or other substances. This bill makes it illegal for minors in California to buy electronic cigarettes or other vaping devices.

Greg Conley of the AVA says his organization is in favor or raising the legal age to 19, but raising it to 21 is hypocritical. “You can buy a house or star in a porn movie in California when you’re 18 but you can’t buy a nicotine patch? Come on,” says Conley. As for the conspicuous absence of opposition to SB 151, Conley says the AVA does not publish press releases for every issue.

Adult responsibility

One of the tenets of being an adult is the license to treat your health as you see fit. In the U.S., a personally is legally considered an adult at 18. Whether or not individuals should be able to legally consume alcohol or smoke or vape at 18 is beyond the focus of this article. But as adults, it is incumbent upon all of us to be cognizant not just of what our rights are as adults but of what we owe to ourselves, not the least of which are good health and a long life.

White River Academy is located at the periphery of the Great Basin in Utah. Our boarding school offers a challenging curriculum, spectacular scenery, outdoor activities and counseling for young men dealing with substance abuse problems or mental health conditions. Please review the Student Profile section on our website to learn more about our programs. If your son is having troubles at home or school, we can help.

About the author:

Darren Fraser, worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec.

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