Want to Smoke or Use an E-Cig in Hawaii? You’d Better Be 21 or Older

June 26, 2015 by No Comments

e-cigarette and e-liquid
Blaming “out of control” vaping, Hawaii has become the first state in the nation to raise its smoking age to 21. The new law, which will go into effect on January 1, 2016, will ban the sale of tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21, and the state will also ban public possession and consumption of these items by anyone under 21.

Much of the reason for the new law stems from increased use of e-cigarettes by teenagers. In a survey of six high schools in the state, 25% of 9th and 10th grade students had used e-cigs at least once, and 18% used them regularly.

The appeal of e-cigs and other vaping devices, especially for teens, is often attributed to the many sweet and fruity vaping flavors for sale; estimates last year placed the number on the market at more than 7,700 different varieties from at least 466 brands. Add in that vaping and smoking often get lumped together, and lawmakers in all 50 states are rushing to add further restrictions to the sale and use of e-cigarettes.

That correlation may also affect Hispanic and Latino communities throughout the United States.

The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos released a study last month that found that young Hispanic adults are especially at risk to take up smoking if they were exposed to it as children.

Puerto Rican and Cuban children who grow up with smokers were more likely to smoke when they hit adulthood, making them the two most likely Hispanic groups to smoke. They’re also twice as likely to pick up the habit than non-Hispanics who grew up with smokers.

Many health officials worry that trends with smoking can also manifest with vaping, especially as the latter becomes more popular. A poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos estimated that 10% of adults in the United States now use electronic cigarettes, although most vapers still smoke tobacco cigarettes, too.

But for those in Hawaii, the concern isn’t so much for the adults as it is for the children.

Hawaii Governor David Ige explained in a statement that, “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 [children] will grow up to be tobacco-free.”

Smoking rates among the 18-to-20 set are also high and reflect the trends in other states among Hispanic and other populations. More than one-third (34%) of the state’s current smokers began using tobacco between 18 and 20, so raising the age is an effort to curb the number of new smokers.

Whether more states will follow when it comes to cigarette and e-cigarette use is yet to be determined. Meanwhile many health agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, haven’t released any comprehensive statements or guidelines for the use of electronic cigarettes, saying that more research is needed on the devices.

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