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HONOLULU — As the new year rushes in, Hawaii becomes the first state to increase the legal buying age for tobacco to 21. However, retailers will have time to prepare for the change.
Though the law is effective Jan. 1, retailers will get a three-month grace period as health officials focus on educating residents, visitors and retailers about the change. Enforcement will begin April 1, according to Hawaii News Now.
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, as CSNews Online previously reported.
A second measure prohibits the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants and other places where smoking is banned.
"We are proud to once again be at the forefront of the nation in tobacco prevention and control," said Hawaii State Department of Health Director of Health Virginia Pressler. "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 ecigarettes requires our state to take additional measures to protect our young people."
Health officials and police are working with the visitor industry to raise awareness about the new restrictions, according to the news report.
The measure calls for a $500 fine for the first violation, and $500 to $2,000 for subsequent violations. Any minors caught by police trying to buy illegal items are subject to a $10 fine for the first offense, $50 for subsequent violations, or community service, it added.
In conjunction with the new measure, the U.S. Marine Corps. said in an administrative message that Hawaii-based Marines will have to be 21 years old to smoke, or they could face state and Marine Corps. penalties, according to Military.com.
Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis directed all stores on Marine Corps installations in the state to stop selling tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and electronic smoking devices, to anyone under 21. Marine Corps and Navy personnel and dependents, as well as other family members, guests and base residents, will be expected to comply with the new law, he said.