Hawaii Could Become First State to Ban Smoking Under Age 21

By May Wilkerson 04/27/15

Hawaii is about to follow the path set forth by municipalities like New York City.

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Hawaii could soon become the first state in the nation to ban smoking under the age of 21, if a bill approved by state lawmakers is signed in to law. The bill would prohibit teens from smoking, buying or possessing both tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes, the Associated Press reports.

The bill cleared the legislature on Friday and needs only to be signed by Governor David Ige, who has not yet declared whether or not he would. If the bill is passed, starting in 2016, first-time offenders would face a fine of $10, and following offenses would be penalized with a $50 fine or community service.

Though some municipalities and cities, including New York City, have already raised the smoking age to 21, Hawaii would be the first state to do so.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke kills 1,400 people in Hawaii each year, while 90% of regular smokers pick up the habit before the age of 19, according to the state's Department of Health.

Though tobacco smoking has declined among high school aged kids in recent years, an estimated 2.3 million American children and young adults started smoking in 2012. A recent report found that e-cigarette use among this age group is skyrocketing. Raising the smoking age to 21 could lower smoking rates by 12%, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine.

"Today we have the opportunity to change the paradigm," said Democratic State Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who introduced the bill. "While the industry is not allowed to directly market to children, it is still developing packaging and advertising products in ways that appeal to children.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.