A smoke shop in lower Manhattan displays a sign in June declaring New York City’s tobacco restrictions. Photo courtesy Stephanie Vallejo

A smoke shop in lower Manhattan displays a sign in June declaring New York City’s tobacco restrictions. Photo courtesy Stephanie Vallejo

New measures that can protect health and prevent potential smokers from lighting up are catching fire across the country. At the center of that work is a tactic that is growing in popularity: reevaluating the age at which consumers can purchase tobacco.

On June 9, California became the second state to restrict the sale of tobacco products to those 21 years old and up, an increase from its former 18-and-up law. For the first time, the state included electronic cigarettes and other vaping products in its definition of tobacco products as well. The restrictions were signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on May 4.

The law is making waves, as the state has 240,000 people ages 18 to 20 who smoke, said April Roeseler, MSPH, branch chief of the California Tobacco Control Program with the California Department of Public Health. And 34,000 people die each year from smoking-related diseases in the state.

A 2014 U.S. surgeon general report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress,” showed that 98 percent of U.S. smokers started smoking by age 26, and 87 percent started before they turned 18. The report suggested several measures, such as increasing taxes on tobacco products, to keep them out of young people’s hands. With substantial science on its side, the 21-and-up movement is picking up steam.

Visit The Nation’s Health online to continue reading this story from the August 2016 issue.