Should the legal age for smoking be raised from 18 to 21? That’s the question being pondered by lawmakers in California, where a growing contingent of health advocates are seeking to make their state’s minimum smoking age the highest in the United States.
Known as Bill 151, the legislation, which was proposed by Democrat Senator Ed Hernandez last Thursday, is designed to limit tobacco smoking among young people. Hernandez says it’s about preventing people from becoming addicted to cigarettes when they’re most vulnerable.
“Tobacco companies are aware that people tend to become addicted to smoking if they start it at young age,” Hernandez said. “Senate Bill 151 proposes to increase the legitimate smoking age in California from 18 to 21 years in an offer to restrain tobacco smoking in children and teenagers.”
Hernandez has evidence to support his cause. According to the American Lung Association, nine in ten smokers take up the habit right around the time they reach age eighteen. Overall, it’s estimated that about 36,000 California children begin smoking each year.
Hernandez says it’s time to take a tougher approach when it comes to preventing young people from smoking. “We can no more bear to sit on the sidelines while huge tobacco markets to our children and gets another era of youngsters snared on an item that will at last kill them,” Hernandez said.
California is not the first state to make this venture. Utah, New Jersey, Maryland, and Colorado have all tried to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21, with every attempt ending in failure.