California’s Tobacco Purchase Age Increase Becomes Law

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A set of anti-tobacco bills, including one that raises the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21-years-old, will soon be law as Gov. Jerry Brown put his signature on nearly all of them today.

While threats of significant fights over non-tobacco legislation have been promised by a lobbyist known for ties to tobacco giant Altria and resulted in a delay in getting bills to the governor’s desk, it didn’t keep Gov. Brown from signing them and risking having some of his own preferred bills come under attack before the November election. With his signature, the changes will go into effect on June 9.

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The California legislature passed the package of bills on March 10, which includes reclassifying e-cigarettes and vaping devices as tobacco products, extending the smoking ban to most businesses with more than five employees and promoting tobacco-free policies and education programs at schools. The licensing fee for a tobacco retailer is also going up from a one-time $100 fee to an annual $265 fee, while distributors and wholesalers will see an increase in their license fees from $1,000-1,200.

The one that didn’t pass involves allowing local governments to impose additional taxes on tobacco products. Brown issued a veto statement on that, saying that “although California has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation, I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot.”

California will become the second state to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, joining Hawaii, which passed similar legislation last year that went into effect on Jan. 1. Massachusetts could be closely behind, as a bill to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products has cleared the state senate, while more than 100 cities have already passed increases of their own.

An earlier version of this article identified the starting date of the new law as being Aug. 2.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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