Anti-Smoking Bills Head to California Senate

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – A package of anti-tobacco bills were passed by a state Senate committee Monday, including bills raising the legal smoking age to 21 and defining e-cigarettes as tobacco products.
     The two bills passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 5-2 margin and proceed to a full Senate vote. Both anti-tobacco bills were previously shut down in the Legislature but were given a second chance because of a special session on health care initiated by state Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown.
     The bill raising the legal age to purchase cigarettes was introduced by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, and he told the appropriations committee it could save the state billions in health care spending.
     “This bill seeks to stop our youth from experimenting with the addictive and deadly drug,” Hernandez said. “There is potential for significant savings in the billions of dollars to our health care system in the long term which would more than offset revenue lost in tobacco taxes.”
     The American Heart and American Stroke Association testified in support of Hernandez’s bill and pointed to Center for Disease Control and Prevention data estimating California health care costs relating to tobacco at $13 billion last year. The American Cancer Society and Planned Parenthood also testified in support of the bill, Senate Bill x2-7.
     State Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, was one of two Republicans to vote against the tobacco measures and criticized the age increase bill for failing to include marijuana provisions.
     “When we start including smoking marijuana, which I think is more dangerous than the tobacco we’re addressing here, then you have something to talk to me about,” Nielsen told Hernandez. “This bill is incomplete.”
     State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced Senate Bill x2-5 which classifies e-cigarettes or vaping products as traditional cigarettes and restricts public use. Leno says the bill would save the state and business money by putting vapor products under the same umbrella as cigarettes and allowing regulators to enforce laws.
     The Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association blasted lawmakers for allowing Leno’s bill into the special session and called vapes “an alternative for those seeking a path away from smoking.”
     “Vapor products contain zero tobacco,” the group said in a statement. “They have quickly created a new industry that provides thousands of jobs in California, millions of dollars in revenue and, most importantly, the potential to reduce the public harms caused by smoking.”
     Several law enforcement groups, including the California Narcotic Officer’s Association and the California College and University Police Chiefs Association voiced support for Leno’s vapor regulation bill.
     While lawmakers try to define vaping definitions and laws, some colleges are implementing their own restrictions on e-cigarettes. California State University San Jose welcomed students back this week with new rules banning students from vaping while on campus.
     Smoking was banned from all University of California campuses in 2014 but many still allow e-cigarettes.
     The Senate committee also advanced bills requiring all schools in the state to be tobacco-free and legislation creating a Board of Equalization tobacco license fee program.

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