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Hawaii Becomes First State To Pass Bill To Up Tobacco Purchase Age

On Friday, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to pass legislation to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. The bill now goes to Gov. David Ige for his signature.

Hawaii joins at least 64 cities and counties in seven states that have raised the tobacco age of sale to 21. Statewide bills are under consideration in California, Washington, New Jersey and elsewhere.

Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says that 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.

“We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21, and tobacco companies spend $27.4 million annually in Hawaii to market their deadly and addictive products. Raising the tobacco sale age to 21 will help counter the industry’s efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students.”

Last week’s action in Hawaii follows a March report by the Institute of Medicine, which concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age would yield substantial benefits to public health.

“The report found that increasing the sale age to 21 would significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking; reduce smoking-caused deaths; and immediately improve the health of adolescents, young adults and young mothers who would be deterred from smoking, as well as their children,” adds Myers.

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