The Hawaii State Senate this morning passed a bill that would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
The bill, SB 1030, is being sent to Governor David Ige for his signature. This would make Hawaii the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes to individuals under the age of 21. The House had previously passed the measure.
The law, geared toward preventing the initiation of tobacco use among youths, will take effect on January 1, 2016.
“Today’s passage of SB 1030 marks a significant achievement in public health,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. “Hawaii is poised to become the first state in the nation to raise the minimum age. I am pleased that the State has included e-cigarettes as part of the new law. With the explosion of e-cigarette use among teens, more and more of our kids are developing an unhealthy addiction to nicotine. This law is an important step in helping to make our next generation tobacco free.”
A 2014 statewide poll of Hawaii residents by SMS Research for CTFH found that statewide, 77 percent of Hawaii voters support raising the age of sale for tobacco products to 21.
“Our state legislators clearly recognized the public health and safety impacts that SB 1030 would provide and passed this historic measure,” Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii (CTFH). “As the first state in the nation to raise the minimum age of access to tobacco products to 21, Hawaii leads in trying to cut the vicious addiction to smoking among our youth. Our state’s passage of this landmark bill provides an incredible boost to other states considering similar legislation.”
According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. A 2015 scientific report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that youth are more vulnerable to addiction as their brains are still developing.
The IOM report concluded that raising the minimum legal age nationally to purchase tobacco products would add 4.2 million years of life to the next generation of American adults. IOM predicted that smoking prevalence would fall from 17.8 percent to an estimated 12 percent with the minimum age set at 21.
“I know first-hand the negative impacts smoking has had on my generation,” said Sabrina Olaes, CTFH volunteer and senior at Kapolei High School. “I have watched former classmates skip class to smoke e-cigarettes in bathrooms and end up being held back for missing so much class time. Passage of SB 1030 means we are one step closer to creating a better and healthier future for Hawaii’s youth.”
In Hawaii, tobacco use or exposure claims 1,400 lives and costs $526 million health care bills annually.