Chloe Carlson | Students enjoying a cigarette outside of the Robert E. Kennedy Library.

Near the entrance to the Robert E. Kennedy Library is one of the few designated smoking areas on campus. However, the smoking areas may be less crowded because of the recent change in legislature.

On June 9, the legal smoking age in California is changing from 18 to 21, which means the right to smoke for some students will be taken away. 

Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill on May 4, which raised the legal age to both possess and purchase tobacco products to 21. The one exception is military personnel who are on active duty. This will make California the second state, after Hawaii, to increase the age.

Business administration freshman Levi Mondoza is 19 and has been smoking for two years. He’s been trying to quit for a year and sees the new law as a means to help him.

“No matter how much I like coming to this bench and having a conversation, and how much I wish it wouldn’t be over a cigarette,” Mondoza said. “It definitely is something I see the government is doing right for the kids in my age group because I shouldn’t be smoking.”

Capt. Chris Staley of the San Luis Obispo Department said he doesn’t see this as a huge change for San Luis Obispo because of its smoking laws are already strict.

“We’ve been on the forefront of these types of laws for a long time and it’s challenging one to enforce because we have a lot of people who are here as tourists who don’t necessarily know the rules,” Staley said.

San Luis Obispo has been on the cutting edge of health-driven legislation for decades. Smoking was banned inside restaurants and bars in 1990. In 2012, the city banned smoking on all public land. Last year, the city voted to classify e-cigarettes under the same category as cigarettes.

Doug Shaw, owner of Sanctuary Tobacco Shop in downtown San Luis Obispo, has seen the smoking laws change in his 24 years as owner of a tobacco shop. 

“People who are not familiar with San Luis Obispo come in and get a cigar, and the first thing they want to do is go down to the creek and have cigar, or maybe out to Mitchell Park, and of course those are the first places they banned smoking,” Shaw said.

Staley said once the law is in effect, officers will treat it like a minor in possession: if you are underage and caught with tobacco, you will be cited. Similarly, if a person looks younger than 21 and has tobacco products, they will have to show proof of age.

“We would ask for identification to make sure that they’re not someone who’s underage who’s in possession of a product they’re not supposed to be,” Staley said.

Both Shaw and Mondoza said they predict those who will be affected by the law will spend the next month buying tobacco in bulk.

“It’s not that they can’t enjoy a cigar, it’s just that they can’t buy them. So it’s a good chance that there will be several people getting extra cigars between now and June 9,” Shaw said. “And then I expect that some of the younger fellas will have friends to purchase for them.”

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