It’s been 144 years, but California just changed the age again for people who can purchase tobacco products. As of Thursday, June 9, no longer can 18- to 20-year-olds buy cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, cigarillos, chewing tobacco, or vape pens, hookahs, or supplies. Smokers must now be at least 21 years old to buy tobacco products.

Paul Wellman

California follows Hawaii’s lead, at the first of this year, in raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

In explanation of the new age limit, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) states that about 34,000 people die annually of illnesses resulting from tobacco consumption, an addiction that also has direct and indirect health-care costs. The department further explains that the highly addictive neurotoxin nicotine can cause permanent brain damage to developing brains, growth that continues to age 25. Of the middle- and high-school students surveyed by California Healthy Kids, e-cigarettes (vaping devices) were much more popular than cigarettes, and CDPH states research shows that teens who use e-cigarettes are three times more likely to switch to cigarettes within a year.

The new law also requires merchants to remove self-service displays of e-cigarettes and their accessories. E-cigarette smoking is also now prohibited in areas that traditionally prohibit cigarette smoking, such as restaurants, worksites, public transit, schools, and playgrounds. CDPH claims about 217,000 California youths ages 12-17 currently smoke. Help quitting is available at or the Smokers’ Helpline (800)-No-Butts (662-8887).


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