California pushes to marry smoking with drinking age

Smoking in the state of California could soon change. For as long as most can remember, buying a pack of smokes or a tin of chewing tobacco has been legal for those who are 18 years or older. The California Senate passed along a measure and multiple bills to the state Assembly to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and to enforce harsher taxes on said products.

While counties in several other states have already raised the smoking age, the assortment of bills and measure would make California the second state in the country where the legal age, statewide, to buy tobacco is as high as 21.

The proposed legislation is also seeking an additional two dollar tax per pack of cigarettes purchased. In addition, the State Board of Equalization would be allowed to charge an annual $265 licensing fee to tobacco vendors, up from the current one time fee of $100. Those who distribute tobacco products would see their yearly licensing fee of $1,000 increase to $1,200.

The proposed legislation pushes ahead with help from a coalition of the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, as well as a reestablished anti-smoking drive within the state as a whole.

To little surprise, the grouping of bills face massive resistance from major tobacco companies and many who have become a dominant force in the state’s capitol.

Some have argued that if Californians are old enough to give military service at the age of 18, they should be allotted the ability to chose whether or not to smoke.

California has its sights set on deterring teens and young adults of the state away from tobacco products as it is well known the younger an individual is when they begin addictive habits or behavior, the harder it will be to later try and quit such behavior.

However, some Californians that fit into the “young adult” demographic that these measures are aiming to protect, don’t feel that their ability to procure tobacco products will be inhibited in any significant way.

ZuZu Jones, a young woman that grew up in Southern California and started smoking somewhere near her sophomore year of high school seems to agree that getting your hands on tobacco products is of little difficulty when you are under age.

“I don’t really think it is going to stop people, they would still find ways to buy cigarettes," Jones said. "I started smoking in tenth grade, when I was 16, and found ways to buy cigarettes so like, 18 never stopped me, so I don’t think 21 would stop people in the same way.”

SMC became a smoke-free campus in 2007, save three designated smoke spots on the perimeter of the main campus.

Even though the tax would set the price of cigarettes somewhere around ten dollars per pack, students at SMC don’t seem to think that this will slow down the tobacco industry at all.

Student Ansar Muhammad said, “[The tax] would be kind of ridiculous. I mean I would still buy the cigarettes, but it would just be more of a pain to do so.”

California is inching closer and closer to bumping the smoking age, this last meeting being the second time in the past three months that the state Senate has sent approved bills to the Assembly. Earlier this summer previous propositions were hindered on the Assembly floor only to have new versions of the legislation approved last month.

If passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, California would have the ninth highest cigarette tax in the country; even with the state’s public health care system already incurring roughly 19-billion dollars a year due to smoking related disorders.

The list of bills and measure is expected to clear a major hurdle in the state Assembly as special sessions in congress do not have designated due dates on proposed legislation.