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Bills To Curb Youth Smoking Head To California Assembly Committee

SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — Two California bills aimed at reducing youth smoking by regulating e-cigarettes and boosting the legal smoking age to 21 will get a crucial legislative hearing Wednesday.

Both pieces of legislation will be considered by the Assembly's Committee on Governmental Organization after passing the Senate last month.

It's unclear whether they have the votes to advance. Both bills are strongly opposed by tobacco companies that have made large contributions to lawmakers.

"The big tobacco companies are the big political power as far as fighting this bill," said Tim Gibbs, spokesman for the lobbying branch of the American Cancer Society.

SB140 by Democratic Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco would regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, banning their use in restaurants, hospitals and public transportation. Vendors of the devices that convert liquid nicotine into inhalable vapor would also need to apply for a state license.

Leno says flavored liquid nicotine solutions such as bubblegum and gummy bear are intended to hook a new generation of young smokers.

"They're marketing to minors in California," he said at a news conference Tuesday.

SB151 by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-La Puente, would raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.

Over half of the members of the Committee on Governmental Organization have accepted money from tobacco companies.

Altria spokesman David Sutton did not answer questions about company donations to specific lawmakers on the committee.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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