The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes and e-cigarettes to 21. The city joins more than 120 others, including New York City and Boston, that have enacted similar legislation.
Supervisor Scott Weiner, who cosponsored the legislation, argues that restricting access to cigarettes helps reduce the likelihood of getting hooked in the first place. A 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine, for example, found that 90 percent of daily smokers started before 19.
But Tom Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (that’s right, NATO), notes that California law not only stipulates that the smoking age is 18, but specifies that state law preempts local legislation: “No city, county, or city and county shall adopt any ordinance or regulation inconsistent with this section,” it reads. A measure to raise the smoking age 21 across the state stalled in the state assembly last year.
Two other California cities that passed similar legislation have veered in different directions: Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, suspended enforcement of the raised age limit after threats of litigation from NATO. Meanwhile, Santa Clara continues to enforce its age limit of 21.
Wiener is unfazed by potential challenges, reports KQED: “Our city has a history of taking on major industries in the name of public health, in the name of consumers, and winning. And we will do so here.”