Hawaii became the first state in the country to officially raise their legal smoking age from 18 in an effort to prevent teens and young people from picking up the habit in the first place.
Hawaiian Governor David Ige signed an historic bill this Friday that raised the legal smoking age to 21. According to a report from the Bangor Daily News, the law will take effect on January 1, 2016, and will additionally ban the sale, purchase, and use of electronic cigarettes for underage Hawaiians.
Governor Ige stated that the bill was part of a wide-reaching effort to place tighter controls on tobacco, lowering the likelihood that Hawaiian teens will become smokers. Governor Ige also approved a bill on Friday that would ban smoking in state parks, which will be added to the list of city and county parks where smoking is already currently banned.
Hawaii County and New York City are two of the first major municipalities to enforce a smoking age of 21, but this landmark law is the first to make a statewide ban. Currently, most states enforce a legal smoking age of 18. Efforts to raise the legal smoking age to 21 have begun in Washington state and California also, though none have resulted in a successful statewide ban.
Research has revealed that up to nine out of ten smokers first start smoking under the age of 21, usually after receiving a cigarette from a friend or relative of legal age. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, tobacco kills 1,400 Hawaiians each year, and is responsible for nearly $526 million in medical bills each year in Hawaii.
Research also suggests that raising the minimum smoking age to 21 would significantly reduce the costs imposed by smoking and tobacco-related illnesses across the country.
While some argue that smoking is a right that shouldn’t be taken away, the majority of American adults support raising the legal age to 21. With smoking rates already dropping from 20th century levels, it will be interesting to see whether Hawaii can pull ahead with this new bill.