California got back at the forefront of tobacco control when, after nearly two decades of subservience to the industry, the Legislature passed and the governor signed five laws last month.
They will save lives and money and make sense, unlike what a recent commentary argues (“E-cig, tobacco-age laws are good intentions gone awry,” Viewpoints, May 31).
One new law includes e-cigarettes in clean indoor air and tobacco licensing regulations because e-cigs are addicting a new generation to nicotine. Most youths who start using e-cigarettes likely wouldn’t have smoked conventional cigarettes. Seven studies found those who start with e-cigarettes are almost four times more likely to be smoking cigarettes a year later than those who don’t.
E-cigarettes are bad for the developing brain and pollute the air with nicotine, formaldehyde and other substances. Though broadly promoted as a way to stop smoking, more than 20 studies show that smokers who use e-cigarettes are actually about one third less likely to quit than smokers who don’t.
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Another important law raises California’s legal smoking age, including e-cigarettes, to 21. Few people know that by the 1920s more than half the states set 21 as the age to buy tobacco, but these laws were rolled back by the tobacco industry courting young smokers. Returning the age to 21 will reduce access to cigarettes and curb the ability of the industry to market to teens.
The Legislature passed these bills by sending them to the Assembly Health Committee, rather than the notorious Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization, whose members are awash in tobacco industry campaign money and who routinely kill public health legislation. It’s time for the Assembly to make this change permanent and send all tobacco bills to its Health Committee.
Meanwhile, voters can continue the momentum on Nov. 8 by supporting a ballot measure to increase California’s cigarette tax and use the money to help reinvigorate California’s anti-tobacco campaign.
The more we stand up to Big Tobacco, the more lives and money California saves.
Stanton A. Glantz is director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.