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Hawaii Becomes First State to Raise Legal Smoking Age to 21

HONOLULU — It may have been the last to become a state, but Hawaii is the first to hike the legal tobacco purchasing age to 21.

On June 19, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed the measure into law, making it the first state in the United States to prohibit the sale, purchase, possession or consumption of cigarettes, other tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to anyone under 21. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Several municipalities and counties across the country have similar legislation in place, including New York City and Hawaii County. 

"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 [children] will grow up tobacco-free," said Ige.

According to the governor's office, 86 percent of current adult smokers in the state began smoking before 21 years old; of these, 34 percent started smoking at 18-20 years old.

"Hawaii continues to be a leader in tobacco prevention and control," said Virginia Pressler, Hawaii's director of health. "Partners statewide have come together to support this monumental legislation that once again puts Hawaii at the cutting edge of public health policy and protecting the health of our youth."

The first offense will result in a $10 fine. Later violations would lead to a $50 fine or mandatory community service, The Associated Press reported.

Until Jan. 1, the state Department of Health will reach out to retailers and post signs to educate the public about the new law.

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