Hawaii Raises Smoking Age

Sommar Veverka, Social Media/Broadcast Director

Last month, Hawaii became the first state to set the legal minimum age at 21 for the purchase of traditional and electronic cigarettes. Hawaii follows the same efforts of two jurisdictions in New York State—New York City and Suffolk County—that enacted similar bans in 2013. And in Missouri last November, Kansas City upped its minimum age for the purchase of tobacco products to 21 as well. In California, a 2008 state law continues to set the minimum age at 18 despite the state’s appropriation of of nearly $59 million last year for smoking prevention and cessation programs, according to the American Lung Association’s website.

Smokers have a life expectancy of 10 years shorter than a non-smoker, and are at a higher risk of having lung cancer and heart disease. According to a life LiveScience article, “Smoking accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths; the risk of developing lung cancer is about twenty-three times higher in male smokers compared to non-smokers; smoking is associated with increased risk of at least fifteen types of cancer…” At the Cancer Center at the University of Hawaii, a study was conducted regarding the usage of traditional and E-cigarettes by teens. As a result of this study the state of Hawaii decided to raise the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products.

This past Jan. 1, Hawaii set the legal minimum smoking age to 21 for traditional and electronic cigarettes. Public health officials are concerned about the youth developing addictions to this unhealthy habit. “Tobacco is unique among consumer products in that it severely injures and kills when used exactly as intended,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Recently, there have been social campaigns in making this next generation smoke-free. Math teacher Katie Watson believes that “the increased usage of smoking amongst teens is a serious issue. Most people who smoke as adults started smoking when they were adolescents. If the issue of teen smoking is not addressed, there will be a steady increase in the number of serious health consequences and premature deaths.”

The inspiration of this bill was the increasing number of young people using electronic cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than 480,000 deaths including from secondhand smoke, occur annually. A recent study at the University of Hawaii states that E-cigarettes are used three times more by teens than the national average. If businesses violate this law and are caught selling tobacco products to people under the age of twenty-one, they will face a fine of $500. The second violation of the law can result in a fine up to $2,000 for various other offenses.