New California tobacco law raises purchase age, includes e-cigarettes (updated) |

New California tobacco law raises purchase age, includes e-cigarettes (updated)

Caitlin Row

As of Thursday, June 9, California’s minimum age to buy tobacco products increased from 18 to 21. That law includes the sale of e-cigarettes for the first time.

A California Department of Public Health news release said, “California is the second state in the nation, following Hawaii, to raise the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21.

“As part of the new law defining e-cigarettes as tobacco products, e-cigarettes, e-liquids including vaping devices and accessories can no longer be sold in self-service displays. E-cigarettes are also not allowed in locations where smoking has long been prohibited, including public transit, worksites, restaurants, schools and playgrounds. Approximately 217,000 California youth between the ages of 12 and 17 currently smoke traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

“California retailers caught selling tobacco products to minors during these enforcement operations are subject to fines up to $6,000.”

Christy White, El Dorado County Tobacco Use Prevention Program’s project director, said steps to encourage compliance across the state are already in the works.

“The California Tobacco Control Program will mail all tobacco retailers across the state information on the new law, along with the required signage (STAKE Act signs​)​ by June 30,” she explained by email. “The California Stop Tobacco Access to Kids​ ​Enforcement (STAKE) Act (California B&P Code Section 22952[a]) was enacted in 1994 to ensure retailers are not illegally selling tobacco to underage youth. The STAKE Act will require that any retailer selling cigarettes​ ​or other tobacco products post a clearly visible sign at each cash​ register where tobacco products are sold, indicating that tobacco​ ​sales are limited to those who are ​2​1 and older.

“Merchant education will also be provided by the El Dorado County Tobacco Use Prevention Program (TUPP).​ Additionally, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office conducts Youth Tobacco Purchase Surveys every two to three years and El Dorado County Environmental Health conducts site visits to businesses.”

South Lake Tahoe Police Department doesn’t anticipate too much of a change as far as regulation, however.

“From an enforcement perspective, the new law does not represent any significant change from the old law,” South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Brian Uhler said. “We count on a certain amount of honesty and oversight from the tobacco-selling business community. In the event we receive complaints about a particular business, we will send an officer to investigate.

“With alcohol, we are lucky to have the support of the California Department of Alcohol Control, which supports alcohol stings in our area. This helps keep area businesses compliant with the law. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent program available for tobacco sting operations.”

According to California Department of Public Health, “About 34,000 Californians die each year from tobacco use. In addition, tobacco-related diseases cost Californians $18.1 billion each year in both direct and indirect healthcare costs due to premature death and low productivity due to illness.

“For those struggling with nicotine addiction, resources are available at Californians who want help quitting can call the California Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-NO BUTTS.”

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