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Tobacco and the Legal Age of Smoking

03/16/2016
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Will California’s Move Cause Other States to Raise the Legal Smoking Age?

The phrase “Go west, young man,” in American jargon can be traced back to the mid-1800s, when westward expansion began .  And for raising the legal smoking age in the United States, like manifest destiny, the American West finds itself at the forefront of the discussion.

As I blogged last summer, effective January 1, 2016, Hawaii became the first state in the Union to ban smoking for people under 21.  And now, California is about to follow suit, as yesterday California lawmakers passed a bill which would raise the minimum legal smoking age in the state to 21.

And while any American state (or city) that has the courage to pass such a law is newsworthy and should be applauded, that California is leading the way could prove very influential, because people pay attention to what happens in California.  And that would seem true of smoking restrictions.

Two sad young girls smoke

For instance, in 1990, the California city of San Louis Obispo became the first city in the world to ban indoor smoking at all public places. Today, most major U.S. cities have followed suit with some type of indoor/public space smoking ban, including the likes of New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston, Houston, Phoenix, and Seattle.    In the mid-1990s, California was the first state to enact laws that banned smoking in certain public places.  By 2011, 38 U.S. states have some form of state-wide legislated action banning smoking.

Maybe this is giving too much credit to California’s role in appearing to set the standard for other states to follow in the battle against cigarettes.  As the lies and treachery of the cigarette industry and the industry’s total lack of regard for Americans was finally exposed through brave litigators and public health officials in the 1990s, maybe the smoking restrictions seen in most states today were inevitable.  But the reason doesn’t matter, action does.  And so whether it is California showing other states it is okay to act, or whether it is a coincidence that California has been among the first state to act regarding bold smoking restrictions, let’s hope that smoking restriction history repeats itself and in a few years, the legal age to purchase cigarettes in most (if not all) U.S. states is 21.

Besides California and Hawaii, brave and influential cities like NYC and San Francisco also enforce the 21 year old law.  Some 100 cities across America enforce it.  A study in Needham, Massachusetts – which raised the minimum smoking age way back in 2005 – concluded that raising the minimum smoking age to 21 contributed to a greater decline in youth smoking.

Convince me why less kids smoking is bad. Convince me why states should not follow Hawaii and California’s lead. But its all up to your choice – you can do it, you can forbid it, or you even can buy smoke detector, to control everyone. All risks on your own choice.

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