As anti-smoking campaigners intensify their efforts around the globe, the state of Hawaii approved in its legislature a bill that aims to prevent adolescents from smoking, buying or possessing both traditional and electronic cigarettes. The legislation, which has been characterized as groundbreaking since it covers both regular cigarettes as well as electronic cigarettes, if signed by the state’s governor will make Hawaii the first US state to raise the legal smoking age to 21 and it includes provisions for fining first-time offenders with a $10 fine, while subsequent violations would lead to a $50 fine or mandatory community service.
It is reminded that currently in most U.S. states the legal smoking age is set at 18 years old, while a handful have already set it higher at 19. Moreover, some US cities and counties, including New York City and Hawaii County, have already raised the smoking age to 21, while similar efforts have been undertaken by lawmakers in Washington state and California.
Proponents of the bill in Hawaii say that it is a natural continuation of the state’s policies and efforts to manage smoking, such as making additional efforts in education and raising cigarette taxes. Moreover, they cite research showing that smoking prevalence would fall by 12% if the minimum smoking age is raised to 21, since according to Hawaii’s Department of Heath, 5,600 kids in Hawaii try smoking each year, and 90 percent of daily smokers begin the habit before the age of 19.
With regard to the ban of e-cigarettes in particular for those under 21 they say that while the e-cigarette industry is not allowed to directly market to children, it is still developing packaging and advertising products in ways that appeal to children, especially through marketing flavors such as unicorn puke and sweet tart.
Opponents to the passing of the bill however, say that it’s unfair that a military veteran returning from service could be prevented from smoking pointing out that people can vote, get married, sign contracts or got to war at ages younger than 21, since they are deemed adults at 18, but will be deprived of the right to choose to buy tobacco products or vaping products.