Hawaii Passes Bill to Protect Youth, Becomes First State to Increase Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 | American Lung Association

Hawaii Passes Bill to Protect Youth, Becomes First State to Increase Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21

Statement from Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association

(April 27, 2015) - CHICAGO

The American Lung Association applauds the Hawaii legislature for making history with final passage of legislation to prohibit the sale of tobacco products - including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes - to anyone under the age of 21. This legislation is supported by seven out of every ten Hawaii voters, and will become law if Governor David Ige signs the legislation, making Hawaii the first state in the nation to raise the tobacco sales age to 21. This bold step will reduce smoking among young people, save lives and help make the next generation of Hawaii residents tobacco-free.

In March, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a new report that found raising the minimum age for legal purchase to at least 21 years old will significantly reduce smoking rates. The IOM concluded that 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019 could be prevented, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer, the nation's leading cancer killer. Nationally, 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. Young adults - 18 to 21 year olds - are specifically targeted by the tobacco industry.

The American Lung Association does not support the provision included by the legislature that penalizes youth for violations. In general, penalizing youth for tobacco sales violations has not been proven to be an effective strategy to reduce tobacco use among youth.

Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the U.S. It is responsible for 480,000 deaths a year and upwards of $289 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. In Hawaii, tobacco use claims 1,400 lives and is responsible for $526 million in health care expenditures each year. Currently, 10.4 percent of high school students in Hawaii smoke.

At least 64 cities and counties in seven states, including New York City, have raised the tobacco age of sale to 21. There are similar bills to increase the tobacco sales age to 21 under consideration in a number of other states, including California, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, tobacco use and tobacco policies, contact the American Lung Association at media@lung.org or 312-801-7628.

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