- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2015

A California Democrat has proposed a bill that would raise the state’s minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 in an effort to keep cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez introduced Senate Bill 151, which would make California the first state in the country to raise the minimum smoking age to 21. Similar proposals have previously failed in New Jersey, Utah, Colorado and Maryland.

“Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age,” Mr. Hernandez said in a statement Friday. “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 proposed bill would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to individuals younger than 21, as well as ban tobacco and smokeless tobacco advertisements to those who are younger than 21, Tech Times reported.

The bill would allow state health officials to conduct “random, onsite sting inspections” of tobacco retailers in response to public complaints or if they are suspected of selling tobacco products to individuals younger than 21.

According to the American Lung Association in California, nine in 10 individuals take up smoking by the age of 18, and 36,000 California kids start smoking each year.

Most states have set the minimum legal smoking age at 18 years old, but some have raised it to 19. Some cities and counties, including New York City, have increased the smoking age to 21, Tech Times reported.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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