While some states in the U.S. do what they can to control the public smoking of tobacco, one state is head and shoulders above the rest as it plans to raise the legal age for smoking to 21.
Surprisingly, the state in question is Hawaii, which just cleared a bill with the legislature, headed by Governor David Ige, that would prevent anyone under 21 from buying or possessing tobacco, including electronic cigarettes.
Ige said regarding the new bill, ‘The departments will be doing their review and then we’ll have the opportunity to look at it.”
Meanwhile, the director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, Jessica Yamauchi, called the new directive “groundbreaking,” saying, “It’s amazing to be the first state in something. That’s very exciting for us.”
The bill itself would include a $10 fine for anyone under 21 caught smoking anything for the first time, increasing to $50 for future violations.
The Department of Health in Hawaii claims that around 5,600 children try smoking in the state every year, so the new legislation is all the more relevant because of that fact.
Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who introduced the new bill, said to reporters, ‘Today we have the opportunity to change the paradigm. 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.”
Sabrina Olaes, a 17-year-old student, supports the banning of smoking for those under the age of 21. She spoke about the time she found herself in her high school restroom surrounded by vapers.
“You feel like you want to hold your breath because you don’t want to smell what they’re smoking. It’s pretty sad to know that they’ve fallen under the addiction.”
One opponent of the new legislation, Democratic Senator Gil Riviere, said that if Hawaii wants to ban smoking, they need to do that for everyone.
“You can sign contracts, you can get married, you can go to war and lose an arm or lose an eye… you come back and you’re 20 years old and you can’t have a cigarette,” she said.
[Image credit: sfchronicle.com]