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Bill To Raise Smoking Age To 21 Clears California Senate

SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — California lawmakers are pushing forward a bill to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21.

The state Senate on Tuesday passed SB151 by Sen. Ed Hernandez on a 26-8 vote. The bill advances to the Assembly.

California would become the first or second state to raise its smoking age. A similar bill passed in Hawaii is now before the governor there.

Smoke shop owners say it could hurt their businesses.

"I'm not opposed to it, but in terms of a business aspect I think it'd hurt quite a bit," Jeffrey Wilson of Uncle Neo's Smoke Shop said.

Wilson says up to 70 percent of his tobacco sales comes from kids under 21.

Hernandez, a Democratic optometrist from La Puente, said big tobacco markets to young people knowing that they are more likely to become addicted if they start smoking early.

Christian Paez says he picked up the habit at 8-years-old. By 18, he was going through 4 packs a day.

"I've been a smoker my whole life and it's not good," Paez said.

Anti-smoking advocates say raising the smoking age would reduce premature deaths, as tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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