Koretz pulls no punches in fight to raise age limit on buyingcigarettes

LOS ANGELES: In promoting his bill to raise California's age limit to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, State Assemblyman Paul Koretz is not interested in subtleties.

LOS ANGELES: In promoting his bill to raise California's age limit to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, State Assemblyman Paul Koretz is not interested in subtleties.

"Any individual or group who does not support this legislation and its safeguards to protect young adults from smoking is sentencing our kids to death, Koretz said in a statement.

The assemblyman's proposed legislation, which takes its lead from recommendations made by the California Medical Association, has been the subject of media reports far beyond the state's borders, with stories getting coverage from NPR, USA Today, and Reuters.

If the law is passed, California's restrictions on purchasing tobacco will be the toughest in the nation.

Tobacco companies have stayed out of the debate, at least publicly. "We're not taking a position on this, said Billy Abshaw, manager of media programs for Philip Morris USA. "The voters in the state of California should be the ones who decide."

Scott Svonkin, Koretz's chief of staff and spokesman, wants to see the debate played out in the media, as well as on the floor of the legislature.

"The press understands that if California leads the way on this, Assemblyman Koretz will be the David against the tobacco industry's Goliath, he said.

"It will set the tone nationwide for raising the age."

Svonkin said reporters often ask that familiar question: How can a state justify raising the age limit to 21, when young people can be drafted to fight for their country at age 18?

"The answer is, it is an honor and a privilege to serve your country," Svonkin said, "while it is a nasty, dirty, deadly, and disgusting habit to smoke. Do we want our men and women in uniform to smoke?"

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