California Making Lots of Headlines Around Tobacco

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The State of California has placed an emphasis on tobacco legislation in the past week, focusing on the legal smoking age, as well as electronic cigarettes.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) on Jan. 29 introduced legislation to raise the Golden State’s legal smoking age from 18 to 21. He has support from the California Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association, but the legislation is likely to face strong opposition from the tobacco industry, reported the Los Angeles Times.

“Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age,” Hernandez noted in a statement. “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.”

Regarding e-cigarettes, in separate legislation filed in the past week, California proposed the products be banned in public places.

“Whether you get people hooked on e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes, it’s nicotine addiction and it kills,” California State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who introduced the bill, told Fox News. “We’re going to see hundreds of thousands of family members and friends die from e-cigarette use just like we did from traditional tobacco use.”

The proposed legislation perhaps comes on the heels of a new report issued by the California Department of Health stating that electronic cigarettes emit cancer-causing chemicals and can get users hooked on nicotine, although the agency acknowledged more research must be conducted.

“Without action, it is likely that California's more than two decades of progress to prevent and reduce traditional tobacco use will erode as e-cigarettes re-normalize smoking behavior," the report said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, California Health Officer Ron Chapman said e-cigs are not as harmful as traditional cigarettes, “but e-cigarettes are not harmless.”

The California report revealed e-cigarettes emit as many as 10 toxic chemicals. Others dispute the report.

"Despite the health officer's false claims, there is ample evidence that vaping helps smokers quit and is far less hazardous than smoking," Gregory Conley, president of the e-cigarette advocacy group American Vaping Association, said in an email to the AP. "Smokers deserve truthful and accurate information about the relative risks of different nicotine products, not hype and conjecture based on cherry-picked reports."

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