With Governor’s Signature, Hawaii… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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With Governor’s Signature, Hawaii Becomes First State to Raise Tobacco Sale Age to 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 20, 2015


WASHINGTON, DC –Hawaii made history and set an example for the nation today when Governor David Ige signed landmark legislation that prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. Hawaii is the first state 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.

Today’s action continues the growing momentum in support of raising the age of sale for tobacco to 21. The California Senate recently approved similar legislation, which is now before that state’s General Assembly. Hawaii has provided a tremendous boost for these efforts, and we are eager to see more states and communities moving in this wise direction.

Governor Ige and Hawaii lawmakers have listened to the state’s voters and youth, and their action will improve the state’s health for generations to come. The Hawaii law takes effect on January 1, 2016. Hawaii joins at least 68 cities and counties in eight states that have raised the tobacco age of sale to 21.

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 more than $27 million annually in Hawaii alone to market their deadly and addictive products.

The increase in the tobacco age 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.

A March report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age would yield substantial public health benefits. 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.

In Hawaii, tobacco use claims 1,400 lives and costs $526 million in health care bills each year. Currently, 10.4 percent of high school students in Hawaii smoke. Today’s action is a great next step toward reducing tobacco’s awful toll.