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PA Must Raise Smoking Age to 21 to Save Lives, Protect Kids

The California legislature overcame intense tobacco industry lobbying to pass “Tobacco 21” bill; Pennsylvania can’t leave our kids behind.

HARRISBURG — On March 14, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania called on the Pennsylvania legislature to follow California’s lead and pass vital legislation that will protect kids and save thousands of lives by raising the minimum age to buy tobacco.

“California legislators overcame heavy-handed lobbying and threats from the tobacco industry, passing Tobacco 21 legislation because they recognized their duty to protect kids and save lives. Don’t the children of Pennsylvania deserve the same chance to grow up addiction-free?” said Neal Bisno, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. 

Last week, the California State Assembly passed SB 7 X2 by State Senator Ed Hernandez that will raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk. California will now join Hawaii as the second state to make this important change. 

Ninety-five percent (95%) of adult tobacco users started before they were 21 years old. Of those kids who become regular smokers, 1 in 3 will die from tobacco-related diseases. 

Even tobacco industry researchers acknowledge that addiction-prone adolescents are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to become lifelong smokers, the reason Big Tobacco vehemently fought the Tobacco 21 legislation in California.

“Saving lives by keeping tobacco out of teens’ hands is a legacy that Pennsylvania leaders can embrace by fighting the number one cause of preventable death in our state,” said Bisno.

For more information, contact Amelia Abromaitis at Amelia.Abromaitis@seiuhcpa.org or at 215-219-4248.

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