LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An Azusa lawmaker is pushing to make California the first U.S. state to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products up to 21 years old.
State Senator Ed Hernandez has sponsored Senate Bill 151, which would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 and authorize state health officials to “conduct random, onsite string inspections of tobacco product retailers” to ensure compliance with the proposed law.
The bill (PDF) would also prohibit advertising tobacco or smokeless tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21.
Supporters for the legislation include the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society and other groups.
Hernandez, who is also chair of the Senate Health Committee, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the legislation would essentially build upon existing laws that already limit tobacco sales.
“The way we have the law written is any statute that says it has to be age 16, we’re gonna change it to age 21,” said Hernandez. “We have a mechanism in the state of California that when you buy cigarettes you have to ask for ID, so any part of the statute to deal with tobacco or tobacco products.”
Some U.S. cities and counties including New York City and Hawaii County have already raised the smoking age to 21.
Any expected costs to taxpayers of implementing such a measure should it become law will be “absolutely zero to none” due to mechanisms already in effect, Hernandez said.
Tobacco use is linked to over 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S., including about 41,000 from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control.