Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, recently reintroduced legislation California Senate Bill 27 (SBX2-7) during the second extraordinary session that will again aim to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 and limit access to tobacco products. The first attempt at this bill failed to make it out of a key policy committee earlier in the year.

While seemingly well-intentioned, raising the smoking age is a severely misguided effort that may carry serious consequences for minority communities – particularly young adults in the African American community.

At 18 you can pay taxes, legally marry, and purchase and use tobacco products.  At 18, you can also serve our nation as a member of the armed forces.  Perhaps it is no surprise then, that military groups across the state object to raising the minimum smoking age and are opposing SBX2-7.

There is a stink of hypocrisy when we send our young adults into harm’s way to defend our nation but legislate that they are not responsible enough to purchase an otherwise legal product. But the stench doesn’t end there.

This bill creates an additional burden for law enforcement and our legal system.  Any enforcement of this bill – even in the best case – will undoubtedly lead to an escalation of low-level citations.  In the worst case, SBX2-7 creates more cause for the harassment of our young men and women.

Just take a moment and think of the broad implications raising the smoking age could have for our inner cities and communities of color. The recent string of incidents where minorities, specifically African-Americans, have been targeted by law enforcement officials for seemingly minor infractions should be enough to give us some serious pause.

To be clear, it is the law enforcement officer’s sworn duty to serve our communities and uphold our laws. Do we really need to provide another reason for officers to search, interrogate, and detain our young men and women when there are much more serious matters at hand? Many communities of color already have to fight hard to overcome high unemployment, crime, and many other issues that force our young people in and out of the legal system – let’s not add another.

We must encourage our elected leaders to work together to focus their attention on the wide-ranging issues plaguing our inner cities and communities of color. Our communities need jobs and a strong economy in order to thrive, not another piece of legislation trying to alter our personal preferences. Let’s put our energy and attentions where they belong – helping young people achieve the American dream.