Law Raising Legal Age for Tobacco Products in Effect
Hawaii County’s new law prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to those under 21 went into effect today.
The law prohibits the distribution of tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices, to those born after June 30, 1996.
The law contains an exemption for individuals who have turned 18 before today.
The bill was passed by the Hawaii County Council on Nov. 20, 2013, and signed into law by Mayor Billy Kenoi the following month.
Retailers who sell the prohibited items to an underage customer will be subject to a fine of up to $2,000. They must also post signs about the new law or face a fine of up to $500.
Signs were sent to all registered tobacco retailers in May. Additional signs are available at the mayor’s offices in both East and West Hawaii or by contacting the East Hawai‘i Tobacco-Free Coalition Coordinator via email at [email protected].
Prospective customers must provide proof of their age which include a state driver’s license, state identification card, military ID or passport.
Although it was passed unanimously by the council, not everyone is happy with the new law.
As detailed in a letter to Big Island Now from retailer Mariner Revell, items prohibited by the law include e-cigarette materials that don’t contain tobacco or even nicotine.
Revell said ironically, he and others have found that those products are helpful to those looking to kick the tobacco habit.
Hawaii County joins the cities of Needham and Canton, Mass. – and most recently New York City – in raising the minimum age of tobacco sales to 21.
Four states – Utah, New Jersey, Alaska and Alabama – require tobacco buyers to be at least 19.
For more information, visit the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i website.