Effective Jan. 1, 2016, Hawaii banned sales of any tobacco products to people under the age of 21. Hawaii has placed this ban on all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes (e-cigs). A second law bans e-cig use in public places where bans on smoking other tobacco products already exist. Andrew Blake of the Washington Times issued an article on Jan. 5, 2016 titled “Hawaii becomes first state to raise legal smoking age to 21.”
After a three month grace period, retailers will be fined from $500 to $2,000 dollars for breaking this new law. Individuals can be fined up to $50 and required to do community service if they violate these laws. As reported by Wyatt Olson for Stars and Stripes on Dec. 30, 2015, military bases in Hawaii have followed Hawaiian state laws with regard to sales and use of tobacco products for those under 21. The article is titled “Hawaii bases imposing under-21 ban on tobacco sales, use.” This is a dramatic change in military policy when cigarettes were issued to military personnel as part of daily rations until 1975.
Virginia Pressler, state director of health, summarized the reasoning behind placing e-cigs in the same category as other tobacco products.
While smoking rates have drastically decreased among Hawaii’s youth and adults, there has been a recent and rapid increase in e-cigarette use. Only 5 percent of Hawaii public high school students reported trying e-cigarettes in 2011 versus 22 percent in 2014, representing a 344 percent increase in e-cigarette use in just four years. Among middle school students, e-cigarette use jumped 542 percent during the same time period, from 2 percent in 2011 to 12 percent in 2014.
The FDA is still gathering information about e-cigs to determine whether e-cigs should be regulated with regard to advertising, event sponsorship, sales to minors, and prohibitions about use in public places. There is more than enough evidence to show that e-cigs deliver addictive nicotine in high concentrations. The propellants used to vaporize the e-cig liquid cause damage to lung cells. Nicotine is a health hazard beyond causing lung cancer. Nicotine restricts flow of blood to the heart and all of the other major organs, and causes cancers of the liver, kidneys, and bladder. Hawaii is to be applauded for restricting tobacco sales in all forms for those below 21. It is time for Ohioans to lobby federal, state and local government representatives to take similar action to raise the legal age to use tobacco to 21 years in Ohio.