Santa Clara County introduces proposal to increase the minimum age for tobacco purchases

SAN JOSE (KRON) — The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors introduced a proposal to increase the minimum legal age for buying tobacco at their meeting Tuesday.

The proposal was introduced by Supervisor Ken Yeager. It calls for raising the legal age to buy tobacco and electronic smoking devices from 18 to 21.

If passed, the increase would only impact the unincorporated parts of the county.

According to Yeager, studies have shown that teens who smoke put their brain development at risk.

There is also the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, and tobacco companies are reaching teens in their advertisements with about $8.8 billion spent annually in their marketing efforts, Yeager said.

Yaeger said he would like to have the age raised by January 1 to give time for the county to ask city governments to pass similar ordinances.

The cities of Palo Alto and San Jose are already discussing similar ordinances.

Santa Clara County Health Officer Sara Cody said an Institute of Medicine study released earlier this year shows that 90 percent of adult smokers reported they started using cigarettes before they were 19 years old.

The study also shows that increasing the legal tobacco purchasing age to 21 would lower tobacco use by 12 percent over time.

National data has also shown that a person who is not a regular smoker by 25 years old is not likely to become one, Cody said.

“It is true that the adolescent brain is more susceptible to nicotine and nicotine addiction,” Cody said.

Supervisor Mike Wasserman said the proposal was a “move in the right direction,” adding that it would be harder for a 17-year-old to pass as a 21-year-old to purchase tobacco.

The board unanimously approved to hear an administration report on the proposal that will be heard at its June 9 meeting.

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