New Year Heralds New Laws Raising Tobacco Sale Age to 21

December 30, 2015

January 1 rings in the New Year – and brings in some new laws in the fight against tobacco.

Hawaii will make history as the first state to raise the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21. The new law takes effect January 1, prohibiting the sale of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to anyone under 21. “We are proud to once again be at the forefront of the nation in tobacco prevention and control,” said Hawaii Director of Health Virginia Pressler.

Providing critical support in a state with major military facilities, the Department of the Navy announced that it will take immediate action to comply with Hawaii’s new law, which will impact all shore-based Navy and Marine Corps Exchanges in the state. “Tobacco cessation is a priority of the Department of the Navy, critical to the health, fitness, wellbeing and readiness of Navy-Marine Corps personnel,” a Navy press release stated.

Also on January 1, Santa Clara County will become the first county in California to raise the tobacco sale age to 21. The county passed the ordinance in June. “The new tobacco purchase age of 21 clearly puts the health of our youth before any special interests,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager, who led the effort.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds Hawaii, Santa Clara County and the growing number of cities and counties that have raised the tobacco sale age to 21.

Increasing the tobacco 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. National data show that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. Raising the sale age to 21 will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students.

At least 115 localities in nine states, including New York City, Boston, Cleveland and both Kansas Cities, have also raised the tobacco sale age to 21. Statewide legislation to do so is being considered in several states, including California.