Hawaii Becomes the First State to Raise the Legal Smoking Age to 21
Beginning Friday January 1, 2016 the legal smoking age in Hawaii will be raised to 21, as Senate Bill 1030 will be enacted into law as Act 122.
This will make Hawaii the first state in the United States to raise the age to purchase tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to 21. Another legislation, Act 19 that takes effect on the same day restricts the use of e-cigs in all locations where smoking has already been banned.
Govenor David Ige has stated that the legislation is part of the state’s comprehensive efforts to control and reduce tobacco use among the youth and increases the probability that the children of Hawaii will grow up free of tobacco.
Those under 21 years of age caught purchasing or using tobacco products would be fined $10 for the first offense, then $50 for repeat offenses. Persons caught selling to underage buyers will be fined $500 for the first offense and up to $2000 for subsequent offenses.
The new law will also require signage posted where tobacco products are sold that state the following:
“The sale of tobacco products or electronic smoking devices to persons under twenty-one is prohibited.”
Most U.S. states have the legal smoking age at 18 years, while some have it set at 19. A handful of cities and counties like New York City and the Big Island have already raised the smoking age to 21. Some lawmakers in California and Washington state have also pushed to raise the legal age in their state to 21 in the past year.
Opponents of the bill feel that it limits the choice for those who are considered adults in other situations. Democratic Senator Gil Riviere who had voted against the bill when it was first presented this past April, felt if the state actually wanted to eliminate smoking, it should be banned for everyone and not just a particular age group.
“You can sign contracts, you can get married, you can go to war and lose an arm or lose an eye. You come back and you’re 20 years old and you can’t have a cigarette,” Gov. Riviere stated.
Earlier this year, Governor Ige also signed HB525 into law as Act 123, which prohibits smoking and use of tobacco products and e-cigs in all state parks and beaches, this law went into effect on July 1, 2015.
The Department of the Navy has also announced that they will be enacting a policy in accordance to Hawaii’s new legal smoking age. This policy will prevent all shore-based Navy and Marine Corps Exchanges located in Hawaii from selling tobacco products and e-cigarettes to personnel under the age of 21 beginning on January 1, 2016.
The Navy did state however that the Hawaii state law does not apply to personnel or transactions while aboard a U.S. naval vessel due to federal jurisdiction laws.