East Hawaii News

Gov. Ige Signs Tobacco Bill, Raising Legal Age to 21

June 19, 2015, 2:56 PM HST
* Updated June 20, 11:13 AM
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Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, it will be illegal in Hawai’i for anyone under the age of 21 to buy, sell, or possess tobacco products. Bill 1030, signed by Governor David Ige on Friday, will make Hawai’i the first state in the nation to raise the age limit on these products.

“This is a significant achievement in public health,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. “Hawai’i 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.”

A major aim of the law, which includes e-cigarettes, was in the prevention of tobacco use among underage individuals.

In 2014, a poll conducted statewide found that 77 percent of Hawai’i residents supported the raise in tobacco sale age. The study was conducted by SMS Research for the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai’i.

“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.  “As the first state in the nation to raise the minimum age of access to tobacco products to 21, Hawai’i 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.”

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The U.S. Surgeon General reported in 2012 that 95 percent of those who smoke as adults began before they turned 21 years old.  Three years later, in 2015, a scientific report from the Institute of Medicine found that youth are more vulnerable to addition since their brains are still developing.

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In addition, the IOM report said that 4.2 million years of life could be added to the next generation of American adults if the legal age across the country was raised.  If the minimum age was set at 21 years old, IOM predicted that smoking would fall by 17.8 percent to about 12 percent.

The use or exposure of tobacco in Hawai’i claims 1,400 lives each year and racks up $526 million in health care bills.

Governor Ige also signed House Bill 525 on Friday. The bill will make all Hawai’i state parks and beaches smoke-free. All county parks on the Big Island and throughout the state, except Kaua’i County, are already smoke-free. With the new state law, facilities that are within the Hawai’i State Park System administered by the Department of Land and Natural Resources will also be smoke-free. The law will go into effect on July 1.

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