published on May 4, 2016 - 2:54 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

(AP) — California Governor Jerry Brown faces a midnight deadline to act on six bills to restrict tobacco use in California, including one to raise the legal age to buy tobacco for smoking, dipping, chewing and vaping from 18 to 21.

Brown must sign, veto or return the bills to the Legislature on Wednesday, or they automatically become law on Thursday.

The Democratic California governor has not commented on the package of tobacco proposals or signaled which way he’ll go.

Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa, author of the bill to raise the legal age, said if California makes the move, other states will follow.

“It’s going to send a shockwave across the country,” Hernandez said.

In April, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise the legal smoking age to 21 and more than 100 local jurisdictions around the country have made the change, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Hernandez said he spoke to the California governor about the legislation last week.

“He looks at me and then said ‘What happens if they sneak a cigarette?’ And I said ‘Oh they can sneak them all they want, they just can’t buy them,'” Hernandez said of his conversation with Brown.

But under the bill, anyone who gives tobacco or tobacco paraphernalia to someone under age 21 could be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime.

If signed, 18-20-year-olds would no longer be allowed to purchase tobacco in California starting on June 9.

Brown is also considering bills to regulate electronic cigarettes, allow local governments to establish tobacco taxes, set annual tobacco license fees, push for all charter schools to be tobacco free and expand existing requirements for tobacco-free workplaces to include small businesses, break rooms and hotel lobbies.

State legislators passed the Democratic proposals almost two months ago.

Democratic leaders waited to send them to Brown after major tobacco companies threatened to spend millions of dollars on campaigns to overturn the changes at the ballot box if they are signed into law.

Opponents would need to collect nearly 366,000 valid signatures within three months of Brown’s signature to ask voters to reject the new laws in November.

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