San Francisco Raises Minimum Smoking Age To 21

The city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to increase the legal age to buy nicotine products, including e-cigarettes.

Under 21? Starting June 1, you’ll no longer be able to buy nicotine products in San Francisco.

On Tuesday, the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to increase the legal age to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. Supervisor Scott Wiener told The Associated Press that the legislation was aimed at discouraging young people “from turning into lifelong smokers.”

San Francisco is now the second-largest city after New York City to raise the minimum age for tobacco buyers. On January 1, Hawaii became the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21; across the country, more than 100 other cities, including Boston, have enacted similar legislation.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking causes about 1 out of every 5 deaths in the U.S. every year. In an effort to confront this problem, experts have amped up their warnings about the dangers of tobacco use at a young age.

A 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine found that teenagers -- particularly those between the ages of 15 and 17 -- were most vulnerable to addiction due to the still-developing nature of their brains.

The report also revealed that 9 out of 10 daily smokers first tried a cigarette before the age of 19, and that raising the minimum age to 21 nationwide would result in nearly 250,000 fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer among people born between 2000 and 2019.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement stressing the urgency of raising the minimum age across the country.

“Tobacco is unique among consumer products in that it severely injures and kills when used exactly as intended,” the organization stated. “Protecting children from tobacco products is one of the most important things that a society can do to protect children's health.”