San Francisco is to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The city has become the second-largest – after New York – to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, reports Mashable.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, chief sponsor of the legislation, said raising the age will discourage young people from turning into lifelong smokers.
— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) March 1, 2016
He said in a statement:
This is a big win in the fight against the leading cause of preventable deaths in our country.
For too long, we have seen the horrible effects that tobacco use has on our residents and particularly our young people.
Wiener seems to have a point – a report last year by the Institute of Medicine found that 90 per cent of daily smokers first tried a cigarette before 19.
Other studies have shown that each day in the U.S, 3,200 teens aged 18 or under try their first cigarette with about 2,100 young adults becoming daily smokers.
However, opponents argue that California law sets a minimum age of 18 and that individual cities are not allowed to set a higher limit.
Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, said his board is considering taking legal action – even though previous efforts to take on San Francisco supervisors were unsuccessful.
Briant said the recent ruling would limit freedoms and undermine state law and added 18-year-olds are adults when it comes to voting, serving in the military or signing a contract — and smoking should be no different.
The new law is due to go into effect on 1st June, but there would be a one year period in which tobacco sellers will be given warnings for selling products to people aged 18-20.
Also, following the change, people between those ages will not be punished for smoking or possessing tobacco – they just won’t be able to purchase it within city limits.