Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday enacted California’s most significant new tobacco regulations in decades, signing laws that will place tight restrictions on use of the increasingly popular e-cigarette and make California the second state to raise its smoking age to 21.
Brown signed five closely-watched bills, which will also expand smoking restrictions in the workplace and on school properties.
But he vetoed one measure that would have allowed cities and counties to impose local taxes on tobacco products.
“Although California has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation,” he wrote in his veto message, “I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot.”
The bills took a scenic route to the governor’s desk.
Originally introduced last year, they initially stalled in an Assembly committee awash with money from tobacco companies amid intense industry opposition. But lawmakers revived the concepts during a special session on health care that allowed the measures to circumvent the normal legislative process.
Democratic leaders hoped to forestall tobacco industry retaliation. As the floor votes loomed, a lobbyist for Altria had threatened to launch a referendum campaign against the new regulations, driving up the price of signatures and undercutting other pending initiatives that are a priority for Democrats this election, including a tax extension on wealthy Californians and a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes.
With the deadline to qualify for the November ballot looming, the tobacco bills were finally sent to Brown in late April.
Most of the bills Brown signed will take effect on June 9:
▪ Senate Bill X2-5 (Mark Leno, D-San Francisco) will regulate e-cigarettes like traditional tobacco products.
▪ Senate Bill X2-7 (Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa) raises the legal age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21, with an exception for active members of the military.
▪ Assembly Bill X2-7 (Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley) expands California’s smoke-free workplace laws to include self-employed individuals who bring clients to their offices, and removes some exemptions, including for for hotel lobbies, bars and warehouse facilities.
▪ Assembly Bill X2-9 (Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, and Adrin Nazarian, D-Los Angeles) broadens California’s tobacco-free school laws to cover all school property at all times.
▪ Assembly Bill X2-11 (Nazarian) increases the licensing fees for distributing and selling tobacco products.