[California] ~ On Wednesday, the Senate panel approved a package of six anti-tobacco bills, including measures raising the smoking age to 21 and barring the use of electronic cigarettes in public place where smoking is banned.
Both the age increase and e-cigarette bills had stalled in the Legislature, but were revived for a special session on healthcare and approved by a new Senate Committee on Public Health and Developmental Services. Republicans did not vote for any of the bills in the package.
Senator Mark Leno, District 11, proposed the measure that would designate e-cigarettes or vaping devices as tobacco products subject to the same restrictions on public use as traditional, combustible cigarettes.
The fastest growing market segment of this very quickly growing industry is made up of children of middle- and high-school ages. Students who have never smoked a traditional cigarette are using e-cigarettes.
The bill also allows sting operations to catch retailers who sell vaping devices to minors and requires child-resistant packaging. “It will definitely protect the next generation.”
The measure was opposed by the Smoke Free Alternative Trade Association as an attack on a product that it says has helped some smokers quite traditional cigarettes.
The bill would “stymie a growing industry,” said the association’s Michael Mullins. The measure does not itself contain a tax, but Kari Hess, co-owner of Nor Cal Vape in Redding, stated the legislation will lead to taxing the industry.
This bill will make vapor products cost prohibitive and I may be forced to close my doors.
The bill raising the age to legally buy cigarettes from 18 to 21 was introduced by Senator Ed Hernandez, District 22, who stated it will significantly reduce the number of young people who take up smoking and result in significantly lower health costs. “It should not be so easy for our children to get a hold of this deadly drug.”
Opponents, including Pete Conaty, a lobbyist for veterans groups, argued that if residents are old enough to join the military and fight in wars at 18, they ought to be able to decide whether to smoke.