The new legal smoking age in Hawaii was officially changed on Friday, making it the first state to raise it to 21. However, the law will take effect only starting January 1, 2016, when electronic cigarettes will also be banned from being sold, purchased or used by individuals under the age of 21.
Hawaii’s Governor David Ige has released a statement explaining that this measure is part of the ongoing efforts of controlling tobacco use and sales; raising the minimum age is designed to reduce smoking among the younger population and increase their chances of growing up to be free from tobacco addictions.
According to the governor’s office, Ige signed another bill on Friday, instating a general ban on smoking and e-cigarette use at beaches and state parks, following the interdiction of smoking in any city and county parks, with the exception of Kaua’i County.
The great majority of U.S. states have set the legal smoking age at 18, with only a handful raising it higher at 19. However, a new trend seems to be taking place, as cities and counties, such as Hawaii County and New York City, have already decided on 21 to be the minimum smoking age.
Both Washington and California states are pressing on to have their legal smoking age raised to 21, but lawmakers are still in the process of getting their bills approved. Opponents of the law argue it creates an inconsistency, as people of younger ages are considered adults in different situations, such as joining the military.
Statistics from the governor’s office show that approximately nine out of 10 smokers in Hawaii reported to have started smoking way before the age of 21. Many others said that their first cigarette was offered to them by a friend of a relative of legal age.
Only in Hawaii, more than 1,400 people are killed by tobacco use, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. At the same time, medical bills related to tobacco use raise to $526 million annually.
On a nationwide level, cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death, taking a death toll of more than 480,000 individuals annually. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports show that one of every 5 deaths in the U.S. is caused by smoking.
Researchers support raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 or 25 years old, as it was found to significantly reduce the cases of tobacco-related illnesses. The general public also seems supportive of the idea of raising the legal age to 21.
Image Source: Indian Express