Hawaii lawmakers pass bill to raise smoking age to 21

If Governor Ige signs the bill, Hawaii would be the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of tobacco and tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

News Report
Hawaii Independent Staff

Hawaii made history today with the final passage of legislation that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. The bill now goes to Governor David Ige, whose signature would make Hawaii the first state in the nation to raise the tobacco sale age to 21.

This bold step will reduce smoking among young people, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free, according to Matthew Myers, president for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Hawaii would join at least 64 cities and counties in seven states that have raised the tobacco age of sale to 21, but would be the first state to raise the sale age across the board. There has been growing momentum across the nation in support of such action, with statewide bills under consideration in California, Washington, New Jersey and elsewhere. By passing this bill, Hawaii is leading the way for these efforts.

Today’s action follows a March report by the Institute of Medicine, which concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age would yield substantial benefits to public health. The report found that increasing the sale age to 21 would significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking; reduce smoking-caused deaths; and immediately improve the health of adolescents, young adults and young mothers who would be deterred from smoking, as well as their children.

“Increasing the sale age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults, age groups when nearly all smoking begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry,” said Myers. “We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21, and tobacco companies spend $27.4 million annually in Hawaii to market their deadly and addictive products. Raising the tobacco sale age to 21 will help counter the industry’s efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students.”

In Hawaii, tobacco use claims 1,400 lives and costs $526 million in health care bills each year. Currently, 10.4 percent of Hawaii’s high school students smoke. Today’s action will help to reduce tobacco’s toll on these vulnerable segments of the population.

A survey released last month showed that more than seven out of every 10 Hawaii voters favor this legislation. The proposal garnered support from a broad-based coalition of voters throughout the state, including large majorities of voters across key demographic groups—men and women, Republicans and Democrats alike. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that some regular smokers also support this legislation.