Tobacco, eCig laws take effect on New Year’s Day; Hawaii first state to raise legal age to 21

(AP File Photo)
(AP File Photo)

With a new year will come a new law — Hawaii will soon make history as the first U.S. state to raise the legal smoking age to 21.

The new law goes into effect on Friday, Jan. 1. Tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes or e-cigs, can only be sold to people who are at least 21 years old.

New signs will be up in stores, telling customers about the new legal smoking age.

“Anyone who looks under the age of 40, we ask for an I.D.,” said Ashley Agag, cashier at Times Supermarkets.

Cashiers at Times will continue to do that, as the tobacco laws change.

“People who do not look over 40, they actually have their I.D. ready, so I’m glad they’re prepared to show me their I.D. so I don’t really have to ask,” Agag said.

Although other cities and counties in the nation have similar smoking age laws, Hawaii will become the first state to change the law.

Also changing with the new year is where people can use e-cigs. Beginning Friday, their use will be illegal where smoking is now prohibited, like restaurants.

Side Street Inn on Kapahulu Avenue is not waiting until the new law goes into effect. Management has already been telling customers who vape to go outside.

Operations manager Rob Acoba said “the issue is how it affects people … so with this law coming into play, we figure, let’s just do away with it.”

Volcano eCigs said it will not be affected by this law since the majority of its customers are 40 to 60 years old.

ECig user Alex Wirkus said the new law won’t bother him. “I think it’s a pretty good idea, seeing as how it does kind of disrupt the air that you breathe,” he said.

Anyone underage caught by police trying to buy tobacco products could be fined $10 for the first offense. Retailers caught selling to those under 21 will face a $500 fine for the first offense, and fines will increase for multiple violations.


Hawaii is the first state in the nation to raise the minimum age to 21 (Act 122).

A second measure restricts the use of e-cigarettes in all locations where smoking is illegal (Act 019).

“Raising the minimum age as part of our comprehensive tobacco control efforts will help reduce tobacco use among our youth and increase the likelihood that our keiki will grow up tobacco-free,” said Governor Ige in June.

The legislature said that according to recent figures from six Hawaii high schools, among the ninth and tenth grade students, 29 percent have used e-cigarettes at least once and 18 percent use them regularly.

In Hawaii, 86 percent of current adult smokers began smoking before 21 years of age; of these, 34 percent started smoking between 18-20 years old, state officials say.

The new law also requires signs posted where tobacco products are sold that say the following:

“The sale of tobacco products or electronic smoking devices to persons under twenty-one is prohibited.”

Earlier this year, Ige signed HB525 into law (Act 123), which prohibits smoking and the use of tobacco products and electronic smoking devices in all state parks and beaches. That law went into effect on July 1, 2015.

The U.S. Army in Hawaii and the Department of the Navy have both announced that they will enact policies that complies with the new Hawaii state smoking law, effective Jan. 1, 2016.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense, as a matter of policy to comply with the Hawaii state law, has directed all Defense commissaries and exchanges located on places subject to concurrent jurisdiction in Hawaii not to sell or furnish tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices and smokeless tobacco, to persons under the age of 21.

All shore-based Navy and Marine Corps Exchanges in Hawaii will cease the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. This will also affect Coast Guard personnel, who also shop at these exchanges.

The Navy, however, does note that Hawaii state law does not apply to personnel or transactions while aboard U.S. naval vessels due to federal jurisdiction laws.

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