Santa Clara County has raised the legal age to purchase cigarettes and electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21, becoming the first such county to do so in the country. The new ordinance will take effect on Jan. 1—stores will be required to post signage and a more rigorous campaign of identification verification will begin.
According to a board study, national data has shown that 95 percent of smokers take up the habit before the age of 21—a telling statistic, considering the County Board of Supervisors said the new ordinance sends a message of putting the health of the youth before the representation of any other special interest. The same study showed that 80 percent of all adult smokers first try smoking before the age of 18.
“Our county continues to be a national leader in protecting the health of our residents, particularly our children and youth, from the harms of tobacco,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager in a press release. Yeager was the curator of the new ordinance. “The new tobacco purchase age of 21 clearly puts the health of our youth before any special interests.”
In California, 64 percent of smokers start smoking by age 18, and 96 percent start smoking by age 26.
“Tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people and costing about $170 billion in health care expenses each year,” said Sara Cody, M.D., County Health Officer and Director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. “Tobacco and e-cigarette use among teens and young adults remains a critical public health concern.”
Retailers in the county will be subject to a much more rigorous ID campaign than is already in place. The schedule of fines for violation are as follows:
A fine not to exceed $100.00 for a first violation within one year
A fine not to exceed $200.00 for a second violation within one year; and
A fine not to exceed $500.00 for each additional violation within one year
Besides the fines, retailers will also be subject to permit suspensions if found violating the new sales policy:
For a first violation within any 24-month period, the retailer permit shall be suspended for up to 30 calendar days
For a second violation within any 24-month period, the retailer permit shall be suspended for up to 90 calendar days
For each additional violation within any 24-month period, the retailer permit shall be suspended for up to one year