For some young adults, between the ages 18 and 20, Thursday might be the start to a rough couple of years, depending on when they turn 21 and how often they stock up on cigarettes.
California is the second state to change the age limit on buying tobacco, from 18 to 21. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation on May 4, the day Cigarettes and Cigars on G Street put up its new signs.
“If you were born after today’s date in 1995 you can’t buy tobacco products,” read the sign on the counter in front of the register. “Under 21 no tobacco.”
Melo Partida, 23, has been working at Cigarettes and Cigars for about three years and said they put up the sign early as a sort of “warning sign.” Partida said she hoped it would help avid smokers who will soon be underage to “ease off” smoking.
Partida can’t be sure, but said she thinks the new law will have an effect on sales at the shop.
“Because (UC Merced) is just right there, most of the kids that come, besides in the summer, are that age group,” Partida said.
She said the new law is good for people’s health, but she knows people are going to be upset about it.
“It sucks because they’re 18,” Partida said. “So it’s like giving them a privilege and taking it away.”
Partida said she expects young adults who are used to smoking and buying their own tobacco to be angry. The new signs in the shop already are provoking complaints.
“They thought it was a joke at first,” Partida said.
Raven Boston, 19, came into the shop on G Street to buy some Gatorade. She said she has a couple of friends under 21 who smoke, and said they are going to be upset about the new restrictions.
Boston said one of her friends has been smoking cigarettes since she was much younger.
“I think she’s not going to be very happy, because she has to sneak them again,” Boston said.
Dr. Eduardo Villarama, regional medical director for the south at Golden Valley Health Center, said he thinks it’s great that the age limit was changed and is trying to be an optimist about the new law.
“People are so creative and innovative that if they want to smoke, they will find ways,” Villarama said. “I love the concept; it’s just the process.”
There always is the choice to quit smoking in a situation like this; however, Partida doesn’t think it’s going to be that easy for everyone.
“What I’m concerned about is the addiction,” Partida said. “It’s hard. It’s like alcoholism or drug addiction.”
Villarama has had many patients come in who have been trying to quit smoking, having had years-long battles fighting their addiction.
“It has to start from within,” Villarama said. “They can only be helped when they’re ready to quit.”
Villarama said he hopes the law will decrease the number of people who smoke and pointed to expected decreases in respiratory illnesses, such as chronic lung diseases and cancer.
“When you smoke, even if it’s the most minimal amount, it will still produce damage,” Villarama said.
There is help available, Villarama said – anything from counselors to buying patches, gum or pills – to aid people to get off nicotine.
“In the long run, it might be better, but it’s going to be a rough couple of years,” Partida said.