A California state senator worried about the number of teenagers using tobacco wants to raise the legal minimum age for smoking in the Golden State from 18 to 21.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), an optometrist, introduced the legislation on Thursday, the Los Angeles Timesreports. "Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age," he said in a statement. "We can no longer afford to 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."

The bill is supported by the California Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association. Kimberly Amazeen, vice president of the American Lung Association in California, told the Times that smoking contributes to the deaths of more than 40,000 people in the state annually, and 21,300 minors start smoking every year.

One person against the proposal is Robert Best, western regional representative for the smokers' rights group The Smoker's Club. He believes instead of changing the rules on smoking, lawmakers should actually focus on drinking — and lower the legal age to 18. "When you are 18 you are an adult and you get to do what you want," he said.

Catherine Garcia


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