Health groups celebrating new laws raising smoking age to 21 in California

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Thursday, health groups are celebrating a package of new laws aimed at fighting the tobacco industry. In addition to discouraging young people from smoking the laws will effect tobacco retail and workplace practices.

California's crackdown on the tobacco industry has just become of the toughest in the nation. Thursday, several new state laws go into effect, restricting the sale of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, even e-cigs.

"This is huge in ensuring that our youth are not the next generation that will be addicted to tobacco," said Justina Felix, American Lung Association Advocacy Manager.

The American Lung Association is calling this package of laws "a huge step forward in the fight against big tobacco."

Health groups, government agencies, and hospitals consider it a victory. Winning at least this fight, against the political power and money of tobacco companies.

In addition to raising the smoking age to 21 owner operated businesses and places like hotel lobbies will now fall under the smoke-free workplace law.

"All of those loopholes will be closed, and really, people will be protected from second-hand smoke," said Felix.

Including e-cigs used for vaping.

"Now wherever smoking is not permitted or allowed, electronic cigarettes will now be included in that law," said Felix.

Before Thursday, tobacco retailers paid a one-time $100 licensing fee.

"Now it's an annual fee of $265. This annual fee will really allow the Board of Equalization to do their job and enforce the laws that exist," said Felix.

Some store owners worry about the added cost of doing business. Some local shops like University Deli Liquor are taking a proactive stance when it comes to enforcement by modifying their age restriction sign because their new decals haven't come in yet.

Manager Hassan Mian said being so close to schools mean around 90-percent of their clientele is under 21.

"It's going to be more of a job for us to check ID's all the time now."

A proposed initiative for the November ballot calls for a $2 cigarette tax increase. Supporters believe it will discourage more people from ever starting the habit.
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