Hawaii Passes Bill to Raise Legal Smoking Age to 21 for Buying Tobacco or E-Cigarettes

Hawaii’s state legislature has passed a bill that raises the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco or e-cigarettes to 21. If Governor David Ige signs the bill, Hawaii would become the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to those under 21.

It is not clear whether Ige will sign the bill, CNN reports. Last week, he approved legislation that bans the use of e-cigarettes in all locations where smoking is illegal.

Currently, 46 states allow the sale of tobacco to anyone 18 or older. The legal age to purchase tobacco is 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah. The minimum age has been raised to 21 in dozens of cities and towns, including New York, the article notes.

“This bold step will reduce smoking among young people, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free,” Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement. “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.”

Last month, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that stated if every state were to immediately ban tobacco sales to those under 21, the smoking rate would fall 12 percent. The decrease would prevent 249,000 premature deaths among the generation born between 2000 and 2019, the report concluded.

A 2009 law that gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco forbids the agency from setting a legal purchasing age for tobacco older than 18. The law required the FDA to study the consequences of raising the minimum age.

Of the estimated 249,000 premature deaths prevented by raising the purchasing age, 45,000 would be from lung cancer, the report stated.