San Francisco joins New York City and a number of other smaller cities to reduce tobacco use, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. A current effort to set the statewide tobacco purchase age to 21 stalled in the California legislature.
San Francisco – (March 1, 2016) Today, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Supervisor Scott Wiener’s legislation to raise the tobacco purchasing age in San Francisco from 18 to 21. San Francisco becomes the second largest city in the country, after New York City, to set the tobacco purchasing age at 21. Earlier this year the State of Hawaii raised the tobacco purchase age to 21. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people each year and costing the United States as much as $170 billion in health care expenditures.
“This is a big win in the fight against the leading cause of preventable deaths in our country,” said Supervisor Wiener. “For too long, we have seen the horrible effects that tobacco use has on our residents and particularly our young people. Passage of this legislation shows, once again, that San Francisco is a leader on progressive public health policy and that we are committed to reducing tobacco use in our city. I’m proud that San Francisco has joined other cities from across the country in the Tobacco 21 movement, and I hope this will push California to increase the tobacco purchase age statewide.”
The legislation received support from the American Heart Association, the Tobacco Free San Francisco Coalition, and the San Francisco Medical Society. Additionally, it was supported unanimously by the San Francisco Health Commission, Small Business Commission, Youth Commission, and Board of Education.
“San Francisco continues to emerge as a public health leader for the region and the state. Together we are working towards dramatically reducing preventable disease and death.,” said Chris Tsakalakis, Board Chairman, the American Heart Association, Greater Bay Area. “Studies have shown that over 90% of smokers begin before the age of 21. We support policies that limit access to tobacco products for youth and are proud to have strongly supported this impactful legislation.”
Bob Gordon, Co-Chair of the San Francisco Tobacco Free Coalition, added: “This is a common sense policy that will help lift tobacco products out of our middle schools and high schools. We are proud to support the Tobacco 21 effort and hope other cities will join this movement.”
In 2009, Congress mandated a federal study as part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to research the effects of raising the tobacco purchase age. Conducted by the Institute of Medicine, and released in early 2015, the study found that increasing the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21 would decrease national smoking rates by 12% and reduce youth initiation of smoking by 25%. The study also found that raising the minimum legal sales age would result in almost immediate reductions in preterm births, low birth weight babies, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
A study by the University of California San Francisco estimated that in 2009, the cost of smoking in San Francisco alone amounted to $380 million in direct health care costs and indirect costs from lost productivity and premature births.
In 2014, New York City raised the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21. Berkeley, Healdsburg and Santa Clara County have all recently raised the tobacco purchase age to 21. The state of Hawaii became the first state to increase the tobacco purchase age to 21 in the summer of 2015. A bill to raise the tobacco purchase age in the state of California stalled in the legislature this year.