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Santa Clara County Looks At Raising Legal Age To Purchase Tobacco, E-Cigarettes To 21

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – A proposed increase of the legal age to purchase tobacco was introduced during the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

The proposal, introduced by Supervisor Ken Yeager, calls to raise the legal age to buy tobacco and electronic smoking devices from 18 to 21 in unincorporated areas of the county.

Studies have shown that adolescents who smoke put their brain development at risk, according to Yeager.

There is also the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, and tobacco companies are reaching teens in their advertisements with about $8.8 billion spent annually in their marketing efforts, Yeager said.

Teens are also more likely to obtain tobacco from someone closer to their age, Yeager said.

Yeager seeks to have the legal tobacco purchasing age raised by Jan. 1 to give time for the county to call on city governments to pass similar ordinances.

There are currently similar proposals under discussion in San Jose and Palo Alto.

Santa Clara County Health Officer Sara Cody said an Institute of Medicine study released earlier this year shows that 90 percent of adult smokers reported they started using cigarettes before they were 19 years old.

The study also shows that increasing the legal tobacco purchasing age to 21 would lower tobacco use by 12 percent over time.

National data has also shown that a person who is not a regular smoker by 25 years old is not likely to become one, Cody said.

"It is true that the adolescent brain is more susceptible to nicotine and nicotine addiction," Cody said.

Supervisor Mike Wasserman said the proposal was a "move in the right direction," adding that it would be harder for a 17-year-old to pass as a 21-year-old to purchase tobacco.

The board unanimously approved to hear an administration report on the proposal that will be heard at its June 9 meeting.

© Copyright 2015 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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