SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday approved raising the legal age to buy tobacco for smoking, dipping, chewing and vaping from 18 to 21.
The new law, which will take effect June 9, makes California the second state to raise the legal smoking age to 21. It will not apply to military personnel.
Brown did not say why he signed the measure along with four others restricting tobacco use in various ways, and his staff declined to comment.
“The action speaks for itself,” Brown spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said.
Supporters of the law said it aims to deter adolescents from the harmful, sometimes fatal effects of nicotine addiction. The Institute of Medicine reports that 90 percent of daily smokers began using tobacco before turning 19.
Lawmakers and health advocates applauded the move and expect other states to follow California’s lead.
“By increasing the tobacco age to 21, the nation’s largest state provides incredible momentum to similar efforts nationwide,” Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.
Representatives of tobacco organization Altria Group Inc. declined to comment Wednesday, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. did not return calls.
The vaping industry has portrayed its products as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco, and one industry group, the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, released a statement calling the governor’s move “a step backwards.” It penalizes smokers who are trying to quit through using vapor products, the statement said.
Gregory Conley, president of American Vaping Association, an organization that champions electronic cigarettes to help people quit traditional cigarettes, opposed provisions of the new laws that classify and regulate vaping products similar to all other tobacco.
“The bill is sending the deadly message to smokers that vapor products are just another form of tobacco,” Conley said.
When the law goes into effect, anyone who sells or gives tobacco to people under age 21 could be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime.
California joins Hawaii, which in April became the first state in the nation to raise the legal smoking age to 21. Other jurisdictions around the country have made the change, including New York and San Francisco.