In what surely should have been done years ago, Hawaii became the first state in the union to raise the legal smoking age statewide to 21, after its governor signed the bill into law on Friday.
The new law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016, and in addition to smoke and smokeless tobacco will also ban the sale, purchase or use of electronic cigarettes as well.
“Raising the minimum age as part of our comprehensive tobacco control efforts will help reduce tobacco use among our youth and increase the likelihood that our keiki [children] will grow up to be tobacco-free,” said Governor David Ige.
The new ban wasn’t the only anti-smoking legislation signed into law on Friday as Ige also signed a bill banning smoking and e-cigarette use at state parks and beaches. Smoking and e-cigarette use are already banned in all city and county parks.
In most U.S. states the legal smoking age is 18, while a small number have set it at 19, though some cities and counties, including New York City and Hawaii County, have already raised the age requirement to 21.
Lawmakers in Washington state and California will likely take notice of the new measure, as they have been pushing to raise the legal smoking age to 21 in their own states.
Roughly nine out of 10 smokers in Hawaii begin smoking before the age of 21 according to the governor’s office.
According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, tobacco use kills 1,400 people and costs over $526 million in medical bills annually in the state of Hawaii.
Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for over 480,000 deaths annually, or one of every five deaths overall, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.