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California Senate will vote on six anti-tobacco bills Thursday

California Senate will vote on six anti-tobacco bills Thursday
California lawmakers want to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21 and adopt other restrictions. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

The state Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a package of six anti-tobacco bills, including measures that would raise the smoking age in California to 21 and restrict the use of electronic cigarettes in public.

The bills were fast-tracked this week through a Senate committee that normally would have held some of them for a week or more to review their financial implications, but instead sent them to the Senate floor so they could be voted on Thursday.

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Bills raising the age limit and barring the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants and other public places where smoking is banned had previously stalled during the Legislature's regular session when they hit an Assembly committee dominated by supporters of the tobacco industry.

By putting new but identical bills through a special session on healthcare, supporters of the bills are bypassing the Assembly Governmental Organization, which had gutted the e-cigarette bill.

"We should be alarmed and infuriated that one of the fastest-growing segments of e-cigarette users is middle and high school students," said Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) recently. "California cannot sit back and watch a new generation of young people become addicted to toxic, addictive nicotine."

Other bills expected to pass today and be sent to the Assembly would allow counties to impose tobacco distribution taxes, ban tobacco use at all schools, plug loopholes in the smoking ban in workplaces and allow the Board of Equalization to charge a $265 licensing fee to tobacco retailers every year rather than a one-time fee of $100 to better pay for enforcement efforts.

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