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    Calif. Smoking Bill Dies

    Proposal to raise smoking age, punish minors caught with cigarettes pulled from the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee.

    SACRAMENTO -- A last-minute legislative maneuver to save a proposal that would have made California the first in the nation to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 died in an Assembly committee.

    Sen. Richard Polanco ( D-Los Angeles), pulled his bill, SB 1680, from the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, much to the dismay of Assemblyman Rod Pacheco, (R-Riverside), who had amended the senator's bill last week to include raising the smoking age. Polanco said he pulled the bill because Pacheco had never asked him if he could make the amendments, according to the Associated Press.

    That bill was amended to increase the legal age to buy tobacco products and fine anyone under 21 who is caught using tobacco, as well as fine those who sell tobacco to minors.

    Polanco's bill originally had nothing to do with smoking and meant to reduce the punishment of misdemeanor crimes that do not cause actual harm to two days in the county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $100. That proposal still lives, because Polanco attached it to another bill.

    During a brief hearing in the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, Polanco said it was wrong for Pacheco to make amendments to his bill without coming to him first, the report said. But Pacheco, who said Polanco had plenty of time to discuss the amendments to the bill with him, said there is still time to have it be heard by the end of the Legislative session on Saturday.

    The bill's apparent demise suited those concerned about its financial impact, as it is estimated to cost the state between $26 million and $66 million a year in lost tobacco taxes. Some Democrats said it was really an attempt by Republicans to gut the proposed increase in cigarette taxes to help close a $23.6 billion budget deficit.

    Others, like Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge), objected to the bill's attempt to make it harder for those old enough to serve in the military to buy cigarettes. But Pacheco said raising the smoking age would make it more difficult for teenagers to obtain cigarettes, as they usually receive them from their 18-year-old friends.

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