The roots of California’s new law that raises the smoking age to 21 are in a small town west of Boston.
In 2005, Needham became the first municipality in the United States to ban tobacco sales to anyone under drinking age.
While some public health officials had long advocated such a move, Stanton Glantz, the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UC San Francisco, was skeptical it would have any effect.
Glantz and others thought that young adults in Needham, a 12-square-mile city, could get cigarettes from older peers or go to neighboring cities for their tobacco.
“I started out thinking it was a waste of time,”...