On Thursday, Ed Hernandez, U.S. Senator for California from the Democratic party, proposed a bill that would raise the legal minimum smoking age from 18 to 21. Although, the initiative has strong support from public health groups, it already faces strong opposition from smokers’ rights groups and the tobacco industry.
Sen. Hernandez, who is a doctor too, felt morally obliged to introduce the new legislation by the alarming prevalence of tobacco use among California teenagers. The bill is backed by three major health organizations – the California Medical Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society.
Mr. Hernandez said during a press conference that the industry is aware that people tend to get more addicted to its cigarettes if they start smoking at a younger age.
We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while Big Tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them,”
the Senator added.
According to an American Lung Assn. report, every single year, more than 40,000 Californians die from smoking-related causes, while more than 21,000 California kids and teens take up smoking.
That is why we need to take bold steps forward in our efforts to reduce tobacco use among youth,”
recently stated Kimberly Amazeen, director of the American Lung Assn. in California, .
Dr. Luther Cobb, chief of the California Medical Assn., explained that the new regulations were necessary because raising the minimum age of smoking would reduce tobacco use among adolescents and would prevent them from developing preventable diseases.
However, The Smoker’s Club, a smokers’ advocacy group, strongly opposed the proposal. Robert Best, the group’s representative in western California, argued that politicians in Sacramento had nothing better to do than endlessly attacking the smokers’ minority.
Mr. Best also said that many young people start smoking before they are 18, so raising the minimum smoking age would not change that habit. He also argued that at the age of 18 people are already grownups and should be allowed to do what they want. That’s why California lawmakers should focus on lowering instead the legal drinking age from 21 to 18 across the state, Mr. Best concluded.
The tobacco producer Altria, former Philip Morris Companies Inc., stated that California regulators should allow science bring evidence on the true benefits of raising the legal smoking age. On this matter, Altria mentioned the pending results of a study currently conducted by the FDA through the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the issue.
Image Source: LA Weekly