SB 151 (Hernandez) Factsheet Tobacco 21

SB 151 (Hernandez) Factsheet
Tobacco 21
This bill seeks to decrease tobacco addiction in California by severely limiting youth access to tobacco products.
In doing so, SB 151 will reduce the number of Californians who become lifetime smokers and suffer from the
long terms impacts of tobacco usage.
The truth, as Henry Waxman famously stated, is that cigarettes are the single most dangerous consumer product
ever sold.
In 1964, the Surgeon General released a report that linked smoking to many health issues, including lung cancer
and heart disease. This landmark report laid the foundation on which tobacco control was built. Since that time,
smoking rates have progressively decreased, but it still remains a significant problem as roughly 18% of the
American population smokes cigarettes. Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United
States with 480,000 people dying annually – 40,000 from effects of secondhand smoke. According to the CDC,
tobacco use kills more people per year than alcohol, murders, illegal drugs, AIDS, and motor vehicle accidents
Aside from the vast human toll, tobacco is a heavy burden financially. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
estimates, direct health care expenditures related to smoking in California amount to approximately $13.3 billion
annually – with about $3.5 billion in Medi-Cal costs. They also estimate California experiences a $10.3 billion
loss in productivity related to tobacco usage.
It is estimated that 90% of tobacco users start before the age of 21, roughly 80% first try tobacco before age 18,
and 75% of teen smokers continue into their adult years. Additionally, studies have shown that a large percentage
of people who purchase cigarettes for illegal distribution are under 21 years of age. Evolving neuroscientific
evidence also suggests that the adolescent brain has a heightened susceptibility to the addictive qualities of
nicotine. Research by the Surgeon General indicates that adolescents can become dependent on nicotine very
rapidly, at lower levels of consumption than adults.
There have been a number of cities and municipalities across the country that have implemented a similar age
increase to 21 and the early results are encouraging. In Needham, MA the youth smoking rate was cut nearly in
half after such a policy was implemented, which was triple that of its surrounding neighbors. In 2013, responding
to the continued burden of tobacco, the FDA commissioned the Institute of Medicine to study the effectiveness of
raising the MLA. They concluded that raising the MLA to 21 would cause the smoking prevalence to decline by
12 percent more than existing control policies.
In the recently released American Lung Association report, The State of Tobacco Control, California received an
“F” grade in tobacco prevention. Cigarette sales to those under 21 account for approximately 2% of total sales and
yet lead to 90% of total smokers. Even the tobacco industry recognizes 18-21 year olds are the key target market
for its massive marketing campaigns. A Philip Morris report has been quoted as stating “Raising the legal
minimum age for cigarette purchaser to 21 could gut our key young adult market…” Formerly a leader in tobacco
control programs, California needs to do more to reduce the sale of tobacco products in our communities and to
protect our youth from becoming addicted to this deadly drug.
This Bill
SB 151 changes the minimum legal purchase age for all tobacco products in California from 18 to 21.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
California Black Health Network
El Monte/South El Monte Chamber of Commerce
March of Dimes California Chapter
Cigar Association of America
Alex Norring / [email protected] / (916) 651-4022