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Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Smoking age may raise from 18 to 21 in California

A series of anti-tobacco bills, including one to raise the legal smoking age in California from 18 to 21, awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

A Fullerton College student takes a cigarette break. Photo credit: Helena Kim


Both the Assembly and state Senate approved raising the minimum age. If Brown authorizes the bill, California will be the second state, after Hawaii, to make the bill official.

The bill would also push the age limit on electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as vapes, equating them to regular cigarettes. Along with restricting purchase and use of any tobacco-related products until age 21, lawmakers voted to prohibit e-cigarettes in public areas where regular cigarettes are already banned, such as restaurants, theaters and bars.

Additionally, other anti-tobacco measures included extending smoke-free areas and increasing tobacco taxes, which currently run at 87 cents per pack.

According to, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health said that over 80 percent of adult smokers smoked their first cigarette before turning 18, and close to 95 percent started before 21.

The CDC also reported that each day in the United States, more than 3,800 youth aged 18 or younger smoked their first cigarette. In addition, 2,100 youth and young adults evolve into daily smokers.

Accordingly, anti-tobacco advocates have pushed to establish the bill after many stalled efforts. Due to the tobacco industry targeting adolescents and young adults, advocates argued that raising the age will lower the number of adolescent smokers, health risks, deaths, and healthcare costs, according to

Critics, on the other hand, panned the bill, noting that 18-year-olds are considered adults and free to make their own choices, regardless of the consequences.

Fullerton College students had mixed views.

While only five out of 50 students chosen identified as smokers, opinions ranged from regarding the bill as useless and unnecessary to a good start for healthier lives, regardless if they smoked or not.

21-year-old Tim Day, a former smoker who recently stopped due to health concerns, said, “Cigarettes are bad, but if you’re old enough to serve your country, you should be able to smoke.”

FC student Aly Richey, a 19-year-old non-smoker, echoed his thoughts and said that she thought the bill wasn’t going to be very effective.

“At 18, you are allowed to go to strip clubs and even go off to war. Personally, I ask myself ‘why’? It is entirely up to the individuals whether they’re 18 or 21 and shouldn’t be government regulated,” Richey said.

Plant biology major Cassandra Guzman thought differently. She attributed “chemical dependency” as a major problem at such a young age.

“Before age 25, addiction is far more likely since your brain isn’t fully developed,” Guzman said.

18-year-old Jesus Zaragoza said although the bill didn’t affect him personally since he didn’t smoke, it was a good idea and may lower the number of smokers and health risks involved.

Smoking age
18-year-olds may be at a serious disadvantage, as they may be banned from buying and using cigarettes until 21. Photo credit: Helena Kim


Pure health educators Breanna Fierro, Sabrina Evans and Chandler Scharr, who represent FC health services, thought differently on the bill itself. However, they all agreed that students should not practice smoking in general, including vaping.

“I don’t think [the bill] is going to stop people from smoking…Although it may get harder for them to get the cigarettes, it’s not going to stop anyone,” Evans said, noting that students can easily steal a cigarette from their mothers’ purses.

Scharr said the bill may shed light on the detrimental health issues that smoking causes, especially since the brains of young adults are still growing.

“I don’t smoke cigarettes personally, but I know people my age who do, and I can already tell that they have bad health issues from smoking, like their teeth,” Scharr said.

In terms of vaping as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, Fierro said, “I feel that vaping has gotten a bad reputation now, but the science behind it says that it may benefit former smokers…Vaping is not as harmful as regular cigarettes, but to an extent.”

In contrast, Evans said, “My perspective on smoking in general is that you shouldn’t put anything in your lungs that shouldn’t be there. Simple as that.”

Whether Brown approves the bill or not, the notion of raising the legal age is still in the heat of discussion.

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    Tim JensonMar 31, 2016 at 12:23 am

    Lawmakers are misguided and are basing this off assumptions that aren’t correct, and that is specifying that people are addicted to nicotine, rather than cigarette smoke. It has been demonstrated that nicotine in the context of cigarette smoke (and the thousands of other chemicals present) is in fact addictive. Yet there is little to no scientific literature showing that nicotine is addictive outside of cigarette smoke. Nicotine is present naturally in many commonly eaten vegetables. In some cases, the content is fairly high. I like eggplant parm, but don’t consider myself to have a dependence on them. There is also no evidence of never smokers becoming addicted to nicotine in patches, and they have been administered as part of fairly recent clinical trials exploring the effect of nicotine on Parkinson’s patients. NEWSFLASH: the nicotine in patches is identical to the nicotine in vapor products.

    Perhaps this is a topic should be revisited. A recent “landmark review” by Public Health England assessed vapor products to be at least 95% less harmful than smoking. There is plenty more independent scientific evidence to show these products are magnitudes less harmful than smoking. For anyone even remotely interested in this topic, this literature is impossible to miss. That raises the question how someone positioning themselves as an “expert” could miss it, or discount it out of hand.

    I see this type of thing frequently, and am usually surprised (even when it comes from a University in a major tobacco producing state). It always strikes me as an effort to protect cigarette markets or advance some unseen agenda. In light of the fact that over 1300 Americans die every day (and usually horribly) as a result of cigarette addiction, it’s hard for me to imagine someone showing outright opposition to a disruptive technology that holds the potential to greatly reduce, or possibly even eliminate all that death and suffering.

    It is indisputable that US smoking rates have “coincidentally” collapsed to their lowest levels since records have been kept, at the same exact time that vapor products have grown in use. There have been no earth shattering new cessation products or technologies introduced in that same period to account for that collapse. I’m not clear on how anyone could be against that unless driven by one agenda or another.

    It’s very interesting to note that the rationale behind the proposals is not evidence of any harm, rather citing the ‘concerns of the vast majority of people’, without any evidence of numbers involved. More disturbingly, how many measures are based solely on popularity with the public? this would be the death knell for any minority if that was the case.

    Nicotine once again is demonized, with the nonsensical quote ”to fight the powerful addiction to nicotine’ ‘when not associated with traditional tobacco cigarettes nicotine is mildly dependence forming akin to caffeine.

    Don’t take my word for it see Etter + Eissenberg (world experts on this subject)
    Also Professor John Britton (Royal College of Surgeons etc)
    The last line of the letter is the giveaway here. ‘Social + Educational pressure alone is not enough it also requires clinical, regulatory + economic measures.

    1) Clinical: – Supposedly some evidence may be good here eg

    2)Regulatory: – Why not wait for the FDA? or failing that an informed discussion rather than regulating via ignorance and prejudice

    3) Economic: – This must be one of the few occasions in History when someone is penalized via taxation (sin tax) for finding a safer alternative …. bizarre and immoral reasoning!