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Tobacco bills fast-tracked to Senate floor

A package of anti-tobacco bills, including one raising the smoking age to 21, was fast-tracked to the Senate floor by the chamber’s Appropriations Committee on Monday.

Some of the bills have costs to the state that normally would have required them to be placed in the suspense file, where they would receive more detailed analysis of the financial implications.

However, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), the committee’s chairman, persuaded the panel to send them all on to the full Senate because they are part of a special session called by the governor on health issues and some had been approved by the Senate during the regular session.

“We want to move all of these bills to the floor as a package to continue the deliberation during the special-session discussion,” Lara said.

Sen. Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) objected to giving the bills special treatment. “We believe that the public has a right to have some time to deliberate rather than going directly to the floor,” said Bates, the committee’s vice chairwoman.

The bills would

-regulate electronic cigarettes the same way regular smoking is restricted in public places,
-bar smoking on all school campuses,
-allow counties to seek voter approval of local tobacco taxes, and
-raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.

Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) said he drew up the latter bill because most smokers start before they are 21. “By targeting this population, this bill seeks to stop our youth from experimenting with this addictive and deadly drug,” Hernandez told the panel.

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