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Assembly Passes New Sweeping Tobacco Control Laws; Senate Action Expected Next Week

Measures Include Authority to Regulate Electronic Cigarettes in Same Manner as Tobacco

March 4, 2016
On Thursday, March 3, the Assembly approved six new tobacco control bills, including measures that would regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, increase the legal smoking age to 21 from 18, and authorize counties to impose local tobacco taxes.
The League of California Cities® has long supported the effort to regulate electronic cigarettes in the same manner as traditional tobacco products. Until now, there has been an absence of meaningful regulation at the state or federal level. Over 140 cities and counties in California have filled this void with local ordinances that subject electronic cigarettes to the same regulations as tobacco products. 
Lawmakers had heated debates over increasing the legal smoking age to 21 from 18. Many Republican lawmakers strongly objected to separating the legal smoking age from other rights of adulthood like serving on juries or voting.
Under the provisions of ABX 2 10 (Bloom), counties will have new authority to impose taxes on the distribution of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and vapor devices. Per California constitutional requirements, however, to impose a new tobacco tax, counties must first obtain voter approval. If the funds are designated for a specific purpose, the tobacco tax would require a two-thirds vote.  
All of these measures are headed to the Senate for a vote next week, and then will go to Gov. Jerry Brown for his expected signature.
Additional debates over tobacco are expected to occur in November given a proposed statewide ballot initiative sponsored by a coalition of doctors and anti-tobacco advocates seeking to increase the cigarette tax by $2 per pack tax.

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