It has been one year since Hawaii’s landmark legislation to raise the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products to age 21 passed, making it the first state to do so. And already, tobacco use is feeling the burn, reducing access for youth, and helping everyone in the state breathe fresher air.
The law prohibits people under the age of 21 from smoking, buying, or possessing tobacco products. The law specifically includes electronic smoking devices, defined as “any electronic product that can be used to aerosolize and deliver nicotine or other substances to the person inhaling the device, an electronic cigarette, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, or electronic pipe, and any cartridge or other component of the device or related product.”
Tobacco use has impacted Hawaii. In total, 1400 lives are lost to tobacco-related causes each year in the state. Additionally, 10 percent of high school students in the state smoke. E-cigarettes also pose a significant threat as 18 percent of high school students regularly use electronic smoking devices.
A newly-released survey in the state of Hawaii shows that 9 percent of Hawaii public schoolers reported that they had smoked tobacco once during the last month. That statistic is a major change from 1993, when that number was 28 percent higher.
Since the law went into effect Jan. 1, national and state-specific cigarette use continues to drop among high school and middle school students, said Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of the Hawaii Public Health Institute.
Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, a CADCA member, is just one coalition in the state fighting vehemently for these changes.
“Through our program, Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, we have been working in communities throughout the islands to save lives from tobacco use for 20 years,” Yamauchi said. “We’re thrilled to have led the effort to become the first state to raise the age of sale of tobacco products to 21 as it is a great example of how you can use policy to get right at the root of a problem. With more than 90 percent of all tobacco users getting hooked before they turned 21, we knew this was the right course to pursue.”
This spring, California became the second state to raise the tobacco age to 21. Not only on a state level has the “Tobacco21” initiative made change, groundbreaking results are being produced on the community level, as well. More than 170 cities have now raised the age in hopes that community by community, they can make it statewide legislation.
CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute in Las Vegas last week offered coalition members a chance to glance into the perspectives of states such as Hawaii with a training session on Tobacco 21 policies that have been implemented. The session, “Tobacco 21 Policies: Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, California and Hawaii’s Perspectives,” featured Yamauchi’s perspective. Michael Freiberg. JD, Staff Attorney, Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, described the policy and legal issues associated with the law. Callie Hanft, Government Relations Director, California American Heart/Stroke Association of California, gave coalitions strategies to take back to their communities to engage in local or statewide Tobacco21 policy change.