Hawaii Becomes First State To Ban Smoking Below Age 21

By May Wilkerson 01/08/16

The island state has implemented one of the country's most stringent anti-smoking laws.


Hawaii started off 2016 with a groundbreaking step in the fight against tobacco.

On January 1, the state became the first in the country to prohibit the sale, purchase, possession or consumption of cigarettes, other tobacco products, and electronic smoking devices to anyone under age 21. Underage tobacco users will be fined $10 for their first offense, and $50 for any following offenses. Anyone caught selling tobacco products to people under 21 will be fined $500.

In Hawaii, 86% of adult smokers began lighting up before age 21, according to the office of Governor David Ige, who signed the bill into a law last summer. According to the state Department of Health, 5,600 Hawaiian kids try cigarettes every year. Around 1,400 people in the state die annually from tobacco use or exposure, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“I think [the new law is] going to have a tremendous impact,” said Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii. “By really limiting the access it will really help to curb the prevalence.”

Governor Ige also signed another anti-smoking measure on Friday to make Hawaii's state parks and beaches smoke-free.“This allows us to put one more impediment to people smoking too much,” he said.

Most U.S. states have a legal smoking age of 18, except for Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah which have raised the minimum age to 19. In Hawaii, raising the smoking age to 21 was estimated to bring down the number of annual smoking-related deaths by 223,000, decrease lung cancer deaths by 50,000 a year, and result in 4.2 million fewer years of life lost for people born between 2000 and 2019.

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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.