The California Senate on June 2 voted to increase the legal smoking age in the most populous U.S. state to 21 from 18.
The move could make California one of the states with the highest smoking age. The big initiative to save people from tobacco was approved by the Senate 26-8 and must now be approved by the state Assembly.
"We will not sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them," Senator Ed Hernandez, a Democrat said. "Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age," Hernandez added.
Authorities also said that that increasing the smoking age to 21 would result in more than 200,000 fewer premature deaths nationally for those born between 2000 and 2019.
Meanwhile, the Cigar Association of America has come up against the bill, contending that 18-year-olds can serve in the military, vote and sign contracts and should thus enjoy the right to smoke.
David Sutton, a spokesman for Altria Group Inc, the parent of Philip Morris USA, said in a statement said that Altria believed states should allow FDA and Congress the opportunity to think through this issue further before enacting different minimum age laws.