Last Friday, Hawaii’s state legislature passed a bill to prohibit the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21. Should Governor Ige sign the measure, it would become law on January 1, 2016, making Hawaii the strictest state concerning such sales. New Jersey, Alabama, Utah and Alaska require individuals to be at least 19; all other states set the age at 18.
With e-cigarettes, vaping and hookah use on the rise nationwide among minors, this change would address concerns of those who study the link between smoking and health, youth smoking and tobacco use and the marked increase in using these relatively new methods of smoking tobacco.
“This bold step will reduce smoking among young people, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a prepared statement.
“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,” he said.
Cigarette smoking has long been recognized as the leading cause of preventable death, and this law would provide additional health safe guards to young Americans. Nearly a half billion people die each year because of smoking and tobacco use. Efforts to curb smoking and minimize the use of all tobacco products by young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 would significantly decrease the likelihood they would ever smoke, use other tobacco products or become addicted to nicotine. Addiction at these ages occurs at a higher rate because of stages of brain development in young adults. Such a decrease would hopefully slow the current and projected rate of premature deaths caused by tobacco products of all kinds.
The legislation has the support of nearly 75% of Hawaiian voters. Whether the governor will sign the bill is still in question, as is whether other states will follow suit.