Hawaiʻi First in Nation to Raise Age of Sale for Tobacco to 21
By Maui Now Staff
A bill that raises the age of purchasing tobacco products in Hawaiʻi to 21 was signed into law today, and is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
Governor David Ige signed Senate Bill 1030 into law, making it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. It also gives Hawaiʻi the distinction of becoming the first state in the nation to raise the age of sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21.
The law was drafted toward preventing the initiation of tobacco use among youth. According to language in the bill, “The legislature finds that the use of electronic smoking devices is prevalent among adolescents in Hawaiʻi. According to recent figures from six Hawaiʻi high schools, among the 9th and 10th grade students, 29% have used electronic smoking devices at least once and 18% use them regularly.”
“This is a significant achievement in public health,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz in a statement today. “Hawaiʻi is the first state in the nation to raise the minimum age for tobacco, including e-cigarettes. With the explosion of e-cigarette use among teens, more and more of our children are developing an unhealthy addiction to nicotine. This law is an important step in helping to make our next generation tobacco free.”
According to the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi and the American Lung Association Hawaiʻi Chapter, tobacco use or exposure claims 1,400 lives and costs $526 million in health care bills annually in Hawaiʻi.
A statewide poll commissioned by the CTFH and conducted by SMS Research, also found that 77% of Hawaiʻi voters in 2014 supported raising the age of sale for tobacco products to 21.
“Our state legislators and Governor clearly recognize the public health and safety impacts that SB 1030 would provide and passed this historic measure,” Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of CTFH in a press release. “As the first state in the nation to raise the minimum age of access to tobacco products to 21, Hawaiʻi leads in trying to cut the vicious addiction to smoking among our youth. Signing this bill into law provides an incredible boost to other states considering similar legislation.”
Kim Nguyen, executive director of the American Lung Association in Hawaiʻi also commented saying, “We know the majority of current adult smokers began using tobacco before they turned 21. Increasing the sale age will reduce tobacco use for our youth and young adults who are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry.”
The organization notes that in March, the Institute of Medicine published a report concluding that increasing the tobacco sale age would yield substantial benefits to public health. According to the American Lung Association, the report found that, “increasing the sale age to 21 would significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking; reduce smoking-caused deaths; and immediately improve the health of adolescents, young adults and young mothers who would be deterred from smoking, as well as their children.”
“The American Lung Association in Hawai`i applauds the actions of our legislature and governor,” said Nguyen. “Today’s action by Governor Ige is an historical step forward for our people and our public health in Hawaiʻi.”
Under the measure, any person under 21 years of age who violates the law would be subject to a $10 fine for the first offense, and $50 for a subsequent offense or 48-72 hours of community service.
Anyone caught selling tobacco products or electronic smoking devices to persons under 21 years of age faces a $500 fine for the first offense; and fines of between $500 and $2,000 for subsequent offenses.
Here in Maui County, Earth Day earlier this week marked the one year anniversary of a bill that effectively banned the use of tobacco at county parks, beaches and recreational facilities. Violators of the law are subject to a $150-$500 citation.