Hawaii governor David Ige has signed into a law a bill on Saturday which has the minimum smoking age raised to 21, becoming the first U.S. state to do so, amidst concerns that e-cigarettes are helping teens develop a taste for cigarettes.
Despite it being the first state to do so, it actually follows in the footsteps many other local administrations – such as New York City or Hawaii County. Statistics pertaining to Hawaii’s governor office reportedly show that 86 percent of smokers in the state started smoking before they reached age 21.
The same statistics also show that more than 1,400 people die in Hawaii yearly to smoking-related problems, while 5,600 teens try a cigarette every year. Fines for underage Hawaiians caught smoking start from $10 at a first offence and rises to $50 for the following ones.
The new law might also have been influenced by concerns caused by the popularity of e-cigarettes in Hawaiian teens, after an University of Hawaii research stated that almost 30 percent of teenager between ages 14 and 16 had tried e-cigarettes. Since there is no restriction regarding e-cigs, it is feared that this will translate into a higher rate of them picking up actual cigarettes.
The measure has been well-received by anti-smoking groups, such as the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii, who’s director Jessica Yamauchi voiced her opinion that this method will see satisfactory results quickly.
However, even some non-smokers, such as Angus McKelvey, a Democratic Representative in Hawaii’s state legislature, criticized the measure. Despite reportedly “not standing cigarette smoke”, mr. McKelvey, who voted against the measure, thought it was absurd especially when you consider young war veterans returning from combat zones.
„I can’t stand cigarette smoking. But to tell somebody you can go and fight for your country and get killed but you can’t have a cigarette, that’s the thing. You’re an emancipated adult in the eyes of the constitution, but you can’t have a cigarette any more”, he said.
The minimum smoking age as mandated by federal law in the U.S. is 18, though a number of states have pushed it to 19 and some local administrations raised to 21. Hawaii is the first state to do so, but California, Utah, Washington and New Jersey are reportedly considering similar measures. According to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, more than 18 percent of adult Americans are smokers.
Image Source: The Independent