Hawaii would be the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21 as the bill has cleared the Legislature and is headed to the governor. The bill would prevent adolescents from smoking, buying or possessing traditional and electronic cigarettes.
Jessica Yamauchi, Executive Director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, said, "It's definitely groundbreaking legislation. It's amazing to be the first state in something. That's very exciting for us."
"The departments will be doing their review and then we'll have the opportunity to look at it," said Governor David Ige.
A fine of $10 would be charged if anyone was caught breaking the rules for the first offense, and subsequent violations would lead to a $50 fine or mandatory community service.
The state Department of Heath estimates that 5,600 kids in Hawaii try smoking each year, 90% of daily smokers begin the habit before age 19 and 1,400 people die from tobacco use or exposure in Hawaii every year.
"Today we have the opportunity to change the paradigm," said Democratic state Senator Rosalyn Baker. "While the industry is not allowed to directly market to children, it is still developing packaging and advertising products in ways that appeal to children."
Prevalence of smoking would fall an estimated 12% if the minimum smoking age were raised to 21, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sabrina Olaes, 17, got involved in promoting the legislation after finding herself in restrooms full of electronic cigarette fumes. "You feel like you want to hold your breath because you don't want to smell what they're smoking," Olaes said. "It's pretty sad to know that they've fallen under the addiction."