healthHealth and Medicine

California Has Raised The Smoking Age To 21


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Other states are likely to follow the same legal change. DANAI KHAMPIRANON/Shutterstock

In May, a new bill was signed into state law in California that will likely save hundreds of thousands of lives. Following on from Hawaii before it, you must now be 21 or older to buy cigarettes or other tobacco products in the Golden State.

According to California Senator Ed Hernandez, who authored the smoking age bill, this new law “will save countless lives, reduce astronomical costs to the health care system, and cost very little because it uses existing enforcement mechanisms.” As reported by CNN, he then went on to say that signing the bill “was an enormous victory for not only this generation, but also for many generations to come who will not suffer the deadly impacts of tobacco.”


As Vox points out, there is good scientific evidence for this type of law actually having the desired effect of saving lives and improving people’s health, even if many have a cheeky smoke before they have reached the legal age.

One report released earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) considered the available evidence and used mathematical projections to simulate what would happen if such a law was enforced. Not only would raising the minimum legal age to 21 plunge smoking “initiation” rates by 25 percent among 15- to 17-year-olds, but the law would cause a 12 percent decrease in the spread and commonality of tobacco product use by the time youths become legal adults.

Remarkably, they estimate that this measure could prevent nearly a quarter of a million premature deaths among Americans born between the years 2000 and 2019. So this new Californian law is not only progressive and sensible – it is scientifically sound and life-saving.

[H/T: Vox]


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