Nov. 20 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – The Hawai`i (Big Island) County Council today has taken bold action to reduce tobacco use and save lives by approving legislation that prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans, including more than 1,000 people in the state of Hawai`i, each year. Virtually all of them started using tobacco before age 21. Raising the sale age for tobacco products will help prevent young people from becoming addicted to tobacco and starting on a path that all too often leads to serious disease and premature death.
We applaud Councilman Dru Mamo Kanuha for championing this innovative legislation and the Hawai`i County Council for approving it on a unanimous vote of 9-0. We also congratulate the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Hawai`i, which has worked tirelessly to reduce tobacco use and save lives.
Today’s action comes just one day after Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a new law that made New York City the first major city or state to raise the tobacco sale age to 21. Needham and Canton, Massachusetts, have also established a tobacco sale age of 21 (Needham’s law has been in effect since 2005, while Canton’s law takes effect January 1, 2014).
Nearly all smokers start as kids or young adults, and these age groups are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. National data shows that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages of 18 to 21 are a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use. Increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 will help prevent young people from ever starting to smoke. It will also help keep tobacco out of high school, where younger students often turn to older friends and classmates as sources of cigarettes.
The tobacco industry never lets up in pushing its deadly and addictive products, so policy makers can’t let up in their efforts to reduce smoking and save lives. The Hawai`i County Council has delivered a victory for kids and health.