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For immediate release: May 5, 2016

Media Contacts: Jessica Berthold, Communications Manager, #510-444-7738, ext. 317 or Sarah Mittermaier, Communications Specialist, ext. 377

There were two major positive developments on Wednesday, May 4, to advance the movement for tobacco control in the U.S: the FDA banned the sale of e-cigarettes to youth under 18, and California Governor Jerry Brown signed a set of tobacco-control bills into law that will regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, expand smoke-free workplace protections, and raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Larry Cohen, founder and executive director of national public health nonprofit Prevention Institute, said:

Given the size and influence of California, the impact of the state’s laws on improving health through prevention cannot be overstated, especially in combination with the FDA’s new regulations on e-cigarettes.

The Institute of Medicine has said that teens and young adults are more susceptible to the effects of nicotine because their brains are still developing. The younger smokers are when they start, the more likely they are to experience negative health outcomes, including lung cancer. Indeed, the majority of adult smokers got hooked on nicotine early: a 2015 Institute of Medicine report found that 95% of adult smokers pick up the habit before age 21. Raising the smoking age, especially in the context of other tobacco-control policies, will prevent many teens and young adults from starting to smoke in the first place.

Already, researchers have estimated that tobacco-control efforts since 1964 have prevented eight million people from dying prematurely. Each of these eight million people have lived, on average, an extra 20 years. Tobacco-control policies are also especially valuable because the costs associated with implementation are so minimal, while the payoff in lives saved and illnesses prevented is so great—and every such tobacco-control measure reduces healthcare costs over time. 

California has taken an important step in passing these bills, and we hope other states will soon follow.”

If you’re planning to cover this story, please consider Larry Cohen as an interview source. He has a long history of advocacy and pushing policy change in the realm of tobacco control: moving forward smoking bans, cigarette taxes, and other tobacco-control policies at the local level in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact us at 510-444-7738, ext. 317 or 377, to arrange an interview.

Prevention Institute is an Oakland-based nonprofit that puts prevention and equity at the center of community health and well-being.