San Francisco would become the second major city in the country, after New York, to raise the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 under legislation to be introduced Tuesday by Supervisor Scott Wiener.
The policy has gained traction around the country, with New York City making the change in 2014 and the state of Hawaii adopting it earlier this year. Santa Clara County is also one of about 80 governments around the country that have raised the cigarette buying age to 21, the same threshold as buying alcohol.
An attempt to pass the same law in the California Legislature stalled this year.
Wiener authored the San Francisco legislation, which is co-sponsored by Supervisor Eric Mar. The two were the lead backers of a failed effort to levy a tax on soda and other sugary drinks at the ballot last year and have often linked the soda and tobacco industries in their discussions about the importance of government regulating matters of public health.
“Cigarettes are one of the leading causes of death and illness in the country,” Wiener said. “We need to do everything in our power to reduce smoking, and when you make it harder for young people to access cigarettes, they smoke less.”
But even if Wiener and Mar secure the backing of their fellow supervisors and the mayor, they could be in for a rough road ahead. The Sonoma County town of Healdsburg passed the same legislation this summer, but said it wouldn’t enforce it after legal threats from the National Association of Tobacco Outlets.