- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Democratic lawmakers in California reintroduced a package of tobacco regulation bills on Thursday after the same proposals stalled in the Legislature earlier this month.

They want the six bills to be considered as part of the Legislature’s special session on health care financing when lawmakers return from a summer break in August.

Democratic leaders who control both houses of the Legislature issued statements backing the package, but Republicans expressed reluctance.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not weighed in on the issue.

The major proposals seek to treat electronic cigarettes as tobacco products and to increase the legal smoking age to 21. Earlier versions failed to advance out the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization after facing strong opposition from big tobacco companies.

The package also includes proposals to ban tobacco from California schools, allow local governments to tax tobacco products, and expand smoke-free workplace laws.

Supporters say stricter tobacco laws will ultimately save health care costs. Medi-Cal, California’s health insurance program for the poor, spends $3.5 billion a year treating tobacco-related illness, American Cancer Society spokesman Tim Gibbs said.

The organization joins the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, California Medical Association and Service Employees International Union, a labor group, in supporting the package.

Legislative Republicans say they have not had a chance to review the bills but generally hesitate to approve new restrictions that could represent a government overreach.

“We’d be interested in ensuring any time we’re changing laws there is an actual, direct impact on public health,” spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said on behalf of Assembly Republicans.

A $2-per-pack cigarette tax is not included in the package, Proponents of the move were cleared last week to begin gathering signatures to place the measure before voters as a 2016 ballot measure.

Gibbs said advocates still hope to introduce the tax as a bill for lawmakers to consider in special session.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide