Hawaii raises legal smoking age to 21

NEW YORK • Hawaii has raised the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21 years old from today, the first state in the United States to do so, US media outlets reported yesterday.

The state has also put in place a rule requiring buyers of electronic cigarettes to be at least aged 21, BuzzFeed News reported yesterday. Most US states set the legal smoking age at 18, though several have set it higher at 19.

Some cities and counties such as New York City and Hawaii County have raised the minimum smoking age to 21, but Hawaii is the first to enforce it state-wide.

The Hawaii move came as health authorities in Singapore are proposing to raise the minimum age of smoking from 18 to 21, and ban menthol and other flavoured cigarettes to step up efforts to discourage people from lighting up.

On Tuesday, Singapore's Health Promotion Board, along with the Health Ministry and Health Sciences Authority, began a 12-week public consultation to get views on these proposed rules.

In Hawaii, businesses could be fined US$500 (S$710) for selling tobacco products to those under 21 years old for their first violation, and up to US$2,000 for subsequent offences, the news reports say.

Smokers below 21 caught for using a tobacco product would be fined US$10 for the first offence, and US$50 each time subsequently. Aol News reported.

Hawaii lawmakers passed the legislation last summer, with the decision influenced by the growing popularity of e-cigarettes or vaping among teenagers.

Officials cited a University of Hawaii study that e-cigarette usage among teenagers in Hawaii is triple the national average, the Daily Beast news site reported on Tuesday.

Reuters reported in June that lawmakers in Washington state and California have also pushed to raise the legal smoking age to 21 in recent months.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2016, with the headline 'Hawaii raises legal smoking age to 21'. Print Edition | Subscribe