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Hawaii Bill would raise tobacco buying age to 21

By Kristine Uyeno Published: July 24, 2014

Some Honolulu City Councilmembers are trying to raise the age of those who can buy tobacco products on Oahu.

Councilmember Stanley Chang and Chair Ernie Martin introduced a bill Thursday that would raise the minimum age from 18 to 21.

Similar moves have been made in other parts in the United States including the Big Island.

“Why are you proposing this?” KHON2 asked.

“Tobacco is one of the leading killers in the United States and 95% of all smokers become addicted when they’re under the age of 21,” Chang said.

Chang believes raising the legal age to buy tobacco products would save lives. It would also follow in the footsteps of the Big Island, where a similar law just began three weeks ago.

“It’s a growing trend nationwide, so we think the City and County of Honolulu should be at the cutting edge of that trend too,” Chang said.

The bill that was introduced on Thursday, would also raise the age for those buying electronic smoking devices including e-cigarette products that don’t contain nicotine.

Volcano E-cigs is one company that sells electronic cigarettes in Hawaii. A company official told me this move would not affect their business.

“The majority of customers are first off, long-term former tobacco smokers,” said Scott Rasak with Volcano E-Cigs.

Rasak says the company does have customers under the age of 21 and if this bill beomes law, it would limit their options.

“We believe strongly in a different alternative, a smarter alternative, giving people options and what this bill does is it specifically limits their ability to explore their options,” Rasak said.

“Do you agree with this move or not?” KHON2 asked.

“Well I think probably if you’re an adult at 18, you got to be able to make your own decisions,” a Honolulu resident said.

“I think that it should be raised because I’m just against smoking overall,” another said.

First reading of this bill is scheduled for next moth. If passed, the bill would become law in January.

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