Friday, April 24, 2015

Measure Raising Tobacco Sales and Possession from 18 to 21 years

The Legislature today passed on final reading, SB1030, SD1, HD2, which increases the minimum age from 18 to 21 for the sale, possession, consumption, or purchase of tobacco products or electronic smoking devices. If signed by the Governor, the measure takes effect on January 1, 2016.

The passage of this bill makes Hawai‘i the first state in the nation to raise the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices to 21.

“I’m very pleased to be a part of passing this landmark legislation that will save lives,” said Senator Rosalyn Baker, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection. “Lives saved, human suffering averted, healthcare costs reduced by increasing the age to legally purchase tobacco products equals good public health policy. That’s what we did today.”

“According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 95% of all adult smokers start smoking before the age of 21, and three out of four teenage smokers continue to smoke into adulthood. With the passing of this bill, like the ordinance recently passed in Hawaii County, our state is once again leading the way and taking a proactive, public health approach to help prevent our young people from trying and becoming addicted to tobacco products,” said House Health Chair, Representative Della Au Belatti.

“This bill does more than just raise the purchase age of tobacco products and e-cigs to age 21. It also conveys a zero tolerance for purchase and consumption of tobacco products,” said Senator Glenn Wakai.

This was a nine year effort for Sen. Wakai, who partnered with students from Moanalua High School in 2006. They identified this loophole and introduced a consumption prohibition bill. That bill has been reintroduced each year since then.

“Children were getting a mixed message - they couldn’t buy cigarettes, but it was perfectly fine for them to light up,” says Sen. Wakai, “Today we snuffed out that glaring loophole.”

This measure defines “tobacco products” to include electronic smoking devices that can be used to aerosolize and deliver nicotine or other substances to the person inhaling the device.

Any person under 21 years of age who is caught in possession or consumption of a tobacco product will be fined $10 for the first offense. The fine for subsequent offenses will be $50 or up to 72 hours of community service.

Anyone caught selling tobacco products or electronic smoking devices to persons under 21 years of age faces a fine of $500 for the first offense. Subsequent offenses are subject to fines of $500 to $2,000.

The bill extends the exemption to allow persons under the age of 21 to participate in police or Department of Health sanctioned tobacco sales sting operations.

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