Political Notebook

California smoking age increase, vaping bills move to Jerry Brown

Electronic cigarettes have become increasingly popular.
Electronic cigarettes have become increasingly popular. Associated Press

California is one step away from enacting some of its most significant tobacco legislation in decades.

The state Senate on Thursday approved bills to raise the legal purchase age to 21 from 18 and to regulate e-cigarettes like a traditional tobacco product. Both measures now head to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, where their fate is uncertain.

If Brown signs the age increase, California will join Hawaii as the only states with an age 21 legal purchase age. The Senate approved the age change on a 26-10 vote.

Stalled for months in the Assembly due to fierce industry objections, the bills were revived in the lower house last week and passed along largely party lines, with a majority of Democrats and a handful of Republicans in support.

The e-cigarettes regulations have been particularly contentious, as the law would place the flourishing product—pitched by the tobacco industry as a healthier alternative that can help people stop smoking – under California’s current smoke-free laws, including banning them from schools, public buildings and restaurants.

Author of the e-cigarette bill, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, praised the 26-11 vote to send it to Brown, asserting that the devices are “nothing more than a new delivery system for toxic and addictive nicotine.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff