Hawaii has taken a historic leap in the campaign against teenage smoking by raising the legal smoking age to 21. The recent change in Hawaiian state law went into effect on January 1, 2016, and applies to all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, according to a Hawaii Department of Health press release.
Public health officials are aiming to sever teenage addiction to smoking and tobacco by making it more challenging for teenagers to access cigarettes.
Hawaii is leading the nation in battling teenage smoking and is the first state to raise the legal smoking age. “We are proud to once again be at the forefront of the nation in tobacco prevention and control,” Virginia Pressler, director of health, stated.
One in four high school students in Hawaii have smoked their first cigarette, and one in three will die early, according to Lola Irvin, administrator of the Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division.
According to health officials, the rise in electronic cigarette use among Hawaiian high school students saw a 344 percent increase from 2011 to 2014. Electronic cigarette use saw an even more significant increase for middle school students, with a 542 percent increase from 2011 to 2014.
“While our comprehensive approach to addressing tobacco use in Hawaii has led to quantifiable decreases in deaths due to smoking, an increase in targeted marketing to our youth and young adults and new technology in the form of e-cigarettes requires our state to take additional measures to protect our young people,” Pressler added.
Smoking and tobacco use is a critical global issue. Smoking cigarettes has been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases, such as cancer, as well as pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases, according to the CDC. One CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), published in November 2008 states: “Smoking is the primary causal factor for at least 30% of all cancer deaths, for nearly 80% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and for early cardiovascular disease and deaths.”
Focusing on teenage tobacco use may be a promising endeavor for state and federal health departments, since nine out of 10 cigarette smokers tried their first cigarette by the age of 18, according to the CDC. The CDC also states that if teenage smoking continues at the current rate, 5.6 million kids under 18 will die prematurely.
Raising the smoking age from 18 to 21 is only one possibly effective strategy. According to research published in PLOS One (2015), graphic images placed on cigarette packaging may also be a promising deterrent for smokers.
Should all states adopt a legal smoking age of 21?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.