California raises the smoking age to 21; calls e-cigs ‘tobacco products’

The vaping industry takes a big hit this week as California raises the smoking age to 21 while simultaneously banning the use of electronic cigarettes in public venues, such as restaurants, nightclubs, and movie theaters.  Meanwhile, new increases in licensing fees for tobacco retailers, wholesalers, and distributors also takes effect.  Perhaps more alarming is that The California State Assembly rushed through six different pieces of anti-vaping legislation within a short 48-hour timeframe.

California Smoking/Vaping Age

Legislators stopped short of approving a proposed state tax of an additional $2-per-pack on all tobacco products, but another newly passed bill allows individual counties and cities to put local taxation legislation on their related ballots in November.   The only thing that stands in the way of some six separate bills becoming law is a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown.

These new statutes come only hours after the Department of Transportation approved federal regulations to ban vaping on airplanes.  Even though Rep. Duncan Hunter, also known as “The Vaping Congressman,” tried to advocate for a legal distinction between smoking and vaping by opening using a vape mod during a Congressional meeting, his efforts to thwart the bill were ultimately unsuccessful.

Vaping Industry may be collateral damage in the War Against Big Tobacco.

Proponents of the new legislation include the California Medical Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Cancer Action Network.  A significant driving argument in favor of passing the bills involves an often quoted statistic that 95% of all adult smokers begin before the age of 21.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D- San Diego) is also offering further validation by comparing teen smoking to underage drinking. Several California politicians are referencing the noteworthy decline in teenage drunk driving facilities once the legal drinking age was raised to 21 several decades ago.

While these are all valid arguments, why is the vaping industry also thrown into the same category as smoking?  According to a floor speech by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), e-cigs and vaping technology threaten the health of all Californians because they are just as addictive as traditional tobacco products.

Sen Mark Leno (D- San Francisco) agrees with Bonta while also stating that he personally believes e-cigs deliver deadly chemicals through water vapor rather than smoke.  Therefore, electronic cigarettes, vaping devices, and tobacco cigarettes should all fall under the very same regulations.   This is an old debate that the vaping industry keeps failing to win over and over again.

California also raises licensing fees on tobacco products.

As California raises the smoking age to 21, other perhaps more significant legislation is getting lost in the resulting media frenzy.  Because The Golden State now legally defines all vaping technology as tobacco products, vape shop owners should also be aware of the newly increased licensing fees for tobacco retailers.  The annual charge per location increased from $100 to $256 while the annual fee for distributors and wholesalers instantly jumped from $1,000 to $1,200.

With excessive government regulation comes the likelihood of increased taxation.  Now that the California vaping community must automatically adhere to the same regulations as Big Tobacco, this opens the door to a long list of potential new threats. For example, many vape shop owners fear new regulations that would mandate an expensive and perhaps lengthy approval process for each new e-liquid or vape mod offered for sale by local vendors.

As California raises the smoking age to 21, the vaping community may be missing the bigger issue.   There is now no legal distinction in California between an EMOW vape pen and a Marlboro cigarette.  Unfortunately, both products now must be regulated…and taxed…in the exact same way.  While Big Tobacco has very deep pockets, the vaping industry does not.  Is this why state legislators secretly pushed through six different anti-vaping bills within a very short 48-hour window before announcing their ratification in a typical Friday News Dump?  Only time will tell.

 California Smoking/Vaping Age

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