On Friday, Hawaii Democratic Governor David Ige signed a bill into law which prohibits businesses from selling tobacco products to adults under the age of 21. Also, under the law, individuals below 21 years of age who are caught using or possessing tobacco products will face first offence fines of $10 and penalties of $50 or community service for additional offences.
“Raising the minimum age as part of our comprehensive tobacco control efforts will help reduce tobacco use among our youth and increase the likelihood that our [children] will grow up tobacco-free,” read a statement by Governor Ige, according to US News & World Report. “This allows us to put one more impediment to people smoking too much,” said Ige.
The new law takes effect on January 1 of 2016 and applies to e-cigarettes in addition to traditional tobacco products.
Democratic State Representative Angus McKelvey, an opponent of the bill, told The Associated Press, “I can’t stand cigarette smoking. It’s disgusting. But to tell somebody you can go and fight for your country and get killed but you can’t have a cigarette, that’s the thing. You can enter a contract. You’re an emancipated adult in the eyes of the Constitution but you can’t have a cigarette anymore.”
Truth in Media reported earlier this month that a similar proposal is under consideration by the California General Assembly. Most US states aside from Alaska maintain a minimum smoking age of 18, except for Utah, Alabama, and New Jersey, where it is 19. Reuters notes that cities and counties including New York City and Hawaii County have previously raised the minimum legal smoking age to 21.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids claims that, on average, 1,400 people die of tobacco-related causes of death each year in Hawaii. A 2014 US Surgeon General report cited the fact that adult smoking rates in the United States have plunged from 42% in 1965 to 18% in 2012.