Calif. governor signs bill to raise legal smoking age in state to 21

SACRAMENTO — California will raise the smoking age to 21 years old under a package of bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday.

Facing a midnight deadline to act on six anti-tobacco bills, Brown signed all but one. The lone veto was for a bill that would have allowed counties and cities to ask voters to approve local tobacco taxes.

“Although California has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the nation, I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot,” Brown wrote in his veto message.

Brown did not offer comments on the bills he signed, which includes legislation by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to regulate e-cigarettes the same as tobacco products, and bills to increase the licensing fee on cigarettes and tobacco products and expand smoke-free laws to workplaces and charter schools previously exempt.

The bills signed by the governor will go into effect in 90 days.

“The tobacco bills the governor signed will reduce the toll smoking takes on the health of Californians and the health of our state budget,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a statement. “By putting the toughest tobacco regulations in decades into law, California is once again showing our national leadership on important issues

In January, Hawaii became the first state to raise the smoking age to 21. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors raised the legal smoking age to 21 in the city in March.

The Legislature passed the six bills in March, but waited until two weeks ago to officially send them to Brown after tobacco lobbyists threatened to overturn the measures through a referendum and potentially derail other ballot measures, such as a criminal justice reform initiative the governor is fighting for.

Brown had 12 days to sign the bills or they would not become law. That deadline is midnight tonight.

Republicans criticized many of the bills, saying legislation, like the one to raise the smoking age to 21, only reinforces the perception of California as a “nanny state.”

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