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California raises legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21

California Gov. Jerry Brown approved a group of bills on Wednesday that will raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 and place new restrictions on electronic cigarettes.

The bills go into effect on June 9 and aim to combat early users of nicotine. The Institute of Medicine released a report stating that 90 percent of regular smokers started using tobacco before turning 19, AP reported.

The legal smoking age change to 21 does not apply to active military personnel, which had held up passage of the bill previously.

Electronic cigarette products are also targeted in the bill, where they are not allowed to be used in public places where cigarettes have also been banned. Critics of this aspect of the bill say that e-cigarettes should not be treated the same as tobacco products.

Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association issued a statement on Wednesday, stating that California “took a step backwards” and that “seeking to economically penalize smokers attempting to switch is counterproductive to public health.”

However, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who wrote the e-cigarette law, stated that the devices used and flavors available are especially marketed towards young people.

Various medical associations praised the governor’s signing of the bills, including the California Medical Association which said the legislation was “the most robust package of tobacco control legislation in decades.” The American Lung Association called the signing of the bill “historic.”

California’s new law makes it the second state in the U.S. to increase the legal smoking age to 21, following Hawaii from April.

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