Lawmakers in California are moving toward putting further restrictions on both tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes. Proposed legislation has passed both houses of the state legislature that would raise the legal smoking age to 21, increase restrictions on smoking in workplaces and place greater restrictions on electronic cigarettes.

Currently, Hawaii is the only state where the legal smoking age is 21. Therefore, California would be only the second state where that is the minimum legal smoking age. Members of the military would be exempt from the new age restriction.

The legislation also includes additional bans on workplace smoking. These would remove anti-smoking exemptions for gaming clubs, hotel lobbies, bars, warehouses and businesses with fewer than six employees.

Restrictions on Electronic Cigarettes

The e-cigarette or vaping elements in the legislation have drawn their fair share of critics from those who are involved in this thriving industry. California has numerous locations where e-cigarettes are sold and vaping is allowed.

E-cigarettes have been widely touted as a safe alternative to tobacco. However, one legislator accused those who make and support e-cigarettes of targeting the marketing of e-cigarettes to young people in order to create “another generation of nicotine-addicted Californians.” Another said, “The last several months have proven just how much tobacco’s business model depends on their ability to market and sell their poison to our kids.”

A Largely Partisan Debate

Both the state assembly and the state senate have approved the bill, which is considered the most significant anti-smoking legislation in decades. The bill is now headed to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

The debate in the assembly was considerably more spirited than in the senate. Interestingly, the proposed legislation seems to be a partisan issue driven by Democrats and generally opposed by Republicans in both houses. Relatively few California legislators have crossed party lines over the bill. One Republican who did is a pharmacist who cited his mother, a long-time smoker, who died from cancer.

Likely this legislation, if signed by the governor, will have the greatest impact on retailers who sell cigarettes and those who run businesses where e-cigarettes are sold and smoked. It’s essential for these business owners to know and abide by the law, and to work to ensure that their employees do the same. The financial and legal consequences for not doing so could be significant.