Hawaii On Brink Of Becoming First To Raise State’s Legal Smoking Age To 21

| Apr 26, 2015 03:30 AM EDT


Turning 21 years old might be a bigger birthday in Hawaii soon. The state is on the brink of becoming the first state in the U.S. to raise its age for legal smoking to 21 years old. The proposed bill cleared the Hawaii legislature on Friday, and now requires the governor's signature.

The new bill, Senate Bill 1030, would prevent adolescents from smoking, purchasing, or even possessing cigarettes, according to Civil Beat. That includes both tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

Jessica Yamuchi, director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, says that the legislation is "groundbreaking." It is "very exciting" for Hawaii to be the first state to pass such a bill.

David Ige, governor of Hawaii, said that he has "not decided" if he will sign the bill. His staff is required to review all bills first for possible legal issues.

Based on the bill, anyone breaking the rule would receive a $10 fine after the first offence. Violations afterwards would result in a $50 fine or required community service.

Hawaii's Department of Health reports that each year 5,600 adolescents in Hawaii try smoking for the first time, and 90 percent of daily smokers start the habit before reaching 19 years old. Also, 1,400 Hawaiians die yearly from firsthand or secondhand tobacco use.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Rosalyn Baker, Democratic state senator, according to CTV News. She says that Hawaii has a chance to "change the paradigm."  

Smoking would drop about 12 percent if the minimum age were upped to 21, according to an Institute of Medicine report. The organization is part of the National Academy of Sciences.

Michelle Johnston, owner of the vaporizer store Sub Ohm Vapes, opposes the bill. She says that 18 year olds can volunteer for the military and vote, so they should be allowed to buy tobacco and vaporizer products.

Democratic Sen. Gil Riviere voted against the bill, which resulted in a 19-4 tally. She argues that 20 year olds can legally perform actions such as signing contracts and getting married.

Gov. Ige  signed related House Bill 940 into law on Thursday. It bans e-cigarettes in public locations where traditional smoking is already banned.

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