Effective January 2, 2016, Hawaii became the first state to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. The law, which lumps e-cigarettes with real cigarettes, coincides with Hawaii’s intent to remain the healthiest state in the Union. A YouTube video of the law’s historic signature in June 2015 is accessible here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ihk4T6Lq7G4
While Hawaii is the first state to enact such a law, it is certainly not the first legal authority in the United States to do so. Approximately 100 cities, including New York City, have already raised the smoking age to 21.
Hawaii maintains that 95% of all adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 21; therefore, discouraging smoking before the age of 21 will significantly impact the number of adult Hawaiian smokers. Furthermore, Hawaii has seen the teenaged use of e-cigarettes rise a whopping 344% over several years, compelling Hawaii to treat e-cigarettes and analog cigarettes equally.
According to the new law, there will be a 3-month grace period in which warnings rather than citations will be issued. After the grace period:
– stores caught selling cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products to a person younger than 21 can be fined from $500 to $2,000; and
– any person under the age of 21 caught buying or possessing cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products can be:
– fined from $10 – $50;
– sentenced to community service.
The measure is supported by the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. However, their support has resulted in a particularly strident objection based on the traditional pro-smoking, pro-drinking stance: that anyone old enough to die for his/her country is old enough to smoke cigarettes, vape e-cigarettes or use other tobacco products; therefore, 18-year-olds are old enough to smoke, vape and otherwise use tobacco products.
The Navy’s response to the opposition is that this is a fitness and readiness issue: those who quit smoking are fitter and readier for duty.
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