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SF Raises Tobacco Age From 18 to 21

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to raise the legal age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21.

The ordinance, sponsored by Supervisor Scott Wiener, comes on the heels of similar laws in Berkeley and Healdsburg, Calif. and will apply to all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes.

It will have the same enforcement structure as the previous law, prohibiting tobacco purchase before age 18.

Wiener said at the Tuesday board meeting that the ordinance “will save lives.”

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths nationwide and costs the nation $170 billion a year in health care, Wiener said.

One third of U.S. high school students use tobacco, and one in four high school students in San Francisco use it, Wiener said.

He cited studies that show 95 percent of tobacco smokers start smoking before age 21, and that high school students who use tobacco are more likely to drop out of school and become pregnant in their teens.

“Tobacco use is more harmful to young people than it is to older people,” Wiener said.

He projected that the city ordinance should reduce tobacco use by San Francisco youth by 15 percent, and reduce it by 12 percent overall.

Wiener said San Francisco has already received “multiple letters” from the tobacco industry threatening to sue on the claim that the ordinance is preempted by California law.

Wiener denied it, saying the ordinance is “complementary” to state law.

“Our city has a history of taking on major industries in the name of public health, in the name of consumers, and winning,” he said.

Supervisors Eric Mar, Malia Cohen and Mark Farrell co-sponsored the ordinance.

The Board of Supervisors’ domain is the City and County of San Francisco.

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