Apr 27, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Hawaii Forefronts Raising Legal Smoking Age To 21

Jan 03, 2016 10:09 PM EST

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Hawaii has welcomed not only the new year but also a new policy. Starting Jan. 1, 2016, the state has officially become the first in the United States to increase legal age smoking from 18 to 21.

Hawaii has become the first state to increase tobacco sales to 21. This new law covers that consumers should be at least 21 years old to buy tobacco commodities including electronic smoking devices. Governor David Ige signed a new legislation last June to help address preventive smoking measures among adolescents.

"We are proud to once again be at the forefront of the nation in tobacco prevention and control," the state's health director Virginia Pressler stated. And this initiative purportedly conforms with Hawaii being among the healthiest people in the country.

Establishments that will be seen selling cigarettes and any of its kinds to adolescents below 21 years old can be penalized from $500 to $2,000, based on the new policy. And underage consumers caught buying or possessing these products are also subject to fines between $10 and $50, plus community service.

To give time to adjust to the new policy, a grace period of three months is allocated. Instead of directly imposing fines and punishments, warnings will be issued first. The new law also enforces strict compliance on display of these products, for example, it requires all tobacco products to be placed behind or below the counter and displays should be locked in a cabinet or drawer with access given to employees only.

In addition, the state has also incorporated e-cigarette smoking in its smoke-free laws. This means that Hawaii now forbids the use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is not prohibited. As written in Acts 19 of the new law, people are protected from inhaling the harmful substances generated by e-cigarettes, tobacco products and other cancer-causing chemicals including formaldehyde, nitrosamines and metals. 

Based on research, of the adult smokers in the United States, at least 95 percent of them began smoking before 21. Although the Department of Health noticed a decline of smoking rates among young ones, a spike of e-cigarette use has been evident. While Hawaii is the first state to implement such policy, over 100 cities across the country including New York and Boston have already enforced it. 

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