Long Beach health and law enforcement officials said they are ready to uphold the state’s new law changing the tobacco purchase age to 21 that went into effect last Thursday.
“The City of Long Beach supports legislation that enhances public health services, including prevention and intervention services for children and youth who may be at risk for tobacco, drug and alcohol dependency,” said the city’s Bureau of Environmental Health Manager Nelson Kerr previously.
California and Hawaii are the only two states in the country that have increased the legal tobacco purchase age to 21 and over a dozen other states have pending legislation to do the same.
The legislation, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month, prohibits those under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco and tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Active duty military personnel are exempt from the new law and individuals ages 18-20 may still legally smoke tobacco.
Despite these exemptions, personnel from the office of Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, who was the lead offer of SB x27, said the bill helps lower the rate of youth smokers.
“It restricts access at the point of sale because that is the most efficient and effective way to curb teen smoking,” said Diana Crofts-Pelayo, director of communication for Hernandez’s office.
The new law will be enforced by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) which is launching an educational campaign to help retailers comply with the new laws.
Kamlan said the city’s health department is working with the state to pass out to retailers new signage and stickers. In addition, the city works closely with the some 600 retailers who sell tobacco and tobacco products through the Tobacco Retail Enforcement Program. In 2008, a municipal code was passed by the Long Beach City Council to require retailers to obtain a permit to sell tobacco. As part of the TREP, health inspectors can conduct site inspections for compliance.
The Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) also conducts random undercover youth decoy operations to check for compliance. The last random inspection took place in early June, during which five businesses were cited for selling tobacco to minors.
“The police department supports the enforcement efforts of the Health Department,” said LBPD Sgt. Brad Johnson. “We collaborate with them in enforcement efforts as directed under the law.”
According to 2015 study by the federal Institute of Medicine, about 90 percent of adults who became daily smokers reported that they first began using cigarettes before their 19th birthday, Hernandez’s office stated.
The report said increasing the minimum age to 21 would result in 200,000 fewer premature deaths for persons born between 2000 and 2019.
“Additionally, disease from tobacco use is a major driver of health care costs, with upwards of $3.5 billion annually in Medi-Cal costs, and as much as $18 billion to the overall health care system,” Hernandez’s office stated.