Hawai’i Makes History by Passing Bill to Increase Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Apr. 24 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Today Hawai’i made history with final passage of legislation to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. The bill now goes to Governor David Ige, whose signature will make Hawai’i the first state in the nation to raise the tobacco sale age to 21. This bold step will reduce smoking among young people, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.

Hawai’i lawmakers have listened to the state’s voters and youth and acted to improve the state’s health for generations to come.  Hawai’i joins at least 64 cities and counties in seven states that have raised the tobacco age of sale to 21. There has been growing momentum in support of such action, with statewide bills under consideration in California, Washington, New Jersey and elsewhere. Hawai’i has provided a tremendous boost for these efforts.

Increasing the sale age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all smoking begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry.

We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21, and tobacco companies spend $27.4 million annually in Hawai’i to market their deadly and addictive products. Raising the tobacco sale age to 21 will help counter the industry’s efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students.

In Hawai’i, tobacco use claims 1,400 lives and costs $526 million in health care bills each year. Currently, 10.4 percent of Hawaii’s high school students smoke. Today’s action will help to reduce tobacco’s awful toll.

A survey released last month showed that more than seven out of every 10 Hawai'i voters favor this legislation. The proposal garnered support from a broad-based coalition of voters throughout the state, including large majorities of voters across key demographic groups – men and women, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Today’s historic action follows a March report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine, which concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age would yield substantial benefits to public health. The report found that increasing the sale age to 21 would significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking; reduce smoking-caused deaths; and immediately improve the health of adolescents, young adults and young mothers who would be deterred from smoking, as well as their children.


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