On Thursday, March 3rd, the California Assembly voted to pass a pair of bills, SBX2-5 and SBX2-7, which raises the age to purchase both cigarettes and vapor products to 21 and bizarrely redefine vapor products, including hardware, as tobacco. But there’s more – it ensures California vets will keep smoking.
Taken up during a special session intended to address Cal-Med budget shortfalls, this important policy decision was rushed to a vote with no input from the public and with floor debate shut down by the “Democratic” caucus. The Assembly’s flagrant disregard for legislative due process aside, Representative Jim Wood of the 2nd Assembly District offered an incredible amendment, explicitly exempting active duty military personnel from the age restrictions. California-based troops can rest safe in the knowledge that they will be able to purchase cigarettes anywhere in the state, so long as they have valid military ID. Wood’s amendment will ensure that California’s hardworking men and women in uniform will continue to smoke at a rate 50% higher than the civilian population.
Despite strong opposition within the state to smoking, the Assembly has actually made it easier for big tobacco companies to continue targeting military personnel. The current bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, would mean that those who enlist at 18 for two years of service and begin smoking while in the military will be left out in the cold, because the bill provides no additional funding for smoking cessation. SBX2-5 also fails to address the fact that there are likely thousands of Californians 18-20, able to join the military, vote and be considered an adult, who currently smoke, and will be left with a choice between obtaining products illegally, hazardous quit-smoking drugs, or nicotine replacement therapy that fails approximately 90% of the time.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill early this week, with Gov. Brown likely to sign the bill shortly thereafter. In doing so, California will be one of the first states to explicitly protect cigarette sales to our military, and in doing so, make thousands of Californians who have chosen vapor products over cigarettes, casualties of the war on smoking.
Gov. Jerry Brown can choose to veto the bill, ensuring that not only veterans, but thousands of California jobs are protected. He can be reached at 916-445-2841.