In a big win for public health advocates, the city of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved raising the legal smoking age to 21. That includes not only cigarettes, but e-cigs as well.
The law is likely a very targeted attack on e-cigarettes, which have doubled in popularity with teens over the last few years, even though teen smoking rates nationwide are about half of what they were in the 1990s.
Besides the very obvious reasons why children should not smoke, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that teens who smoke are more likely to form addictions that make them lifelong smokers due to the way their brains are developing. Raising the smoking age also keeps cigarettes and their vapey associates completely out of high schools, where no one (probably) is 21.
But the bigger story here is what this means for smoking and vaping teens nationwide. Remember that California was the first place where smoking was first banned indoors and at places like restaurants. And when it comes to public health policy, at least, what starts in California often ripples across the country, according to a great story by our own Matt Novak:
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the rise of anti-smoking laws has a lot to do with California being the first to ban it. Countless people moved away from the populous state after 1995 only to be shocked that smoking was allowed in the bars and restaurants of their new home states. The societal norms were shifting, in no small part because mobile Californians had simply gotten used to not going home smelling like smoke after having a dinner out.
A California bill to raise the smoking age to 21 seems to have stalled last summer but a new version will be introduced this week. New York City also bans the sale of tobacco and e-cigs to those under 21, Hawaii passed a similar law last year, and there’s a big movement afoot to raise the smoking age nationally to 21. According to a study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 75 percent of Americans agree the smoking age should be 21—and that statistic holds true even among American smokers.