Hawaii Hikes Minimum Smoking Age to 21

Published February 5, 2016

A new statewide law raising the minimum age required for individuals to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes has gone into effect in Hawaii.

Individuals under the age of 21 are now no longer able to legally purchase these products, making Hawaii the first state in the nation to raise the smoking age to 21, as of January 2016.

Keli’i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, an independent nonprofit research and educational institution devoted to promoting individual liberty and accountable government, says the new law treats adult Hawaiians as though are children.

“This is an abuse of government power and an inappropriate means to an end,” Akina said. “The role of government is to defend individual liberty, not to serve as a controlling nanny over citizens. The State of Hawaii should instead foster a citizenry of individuals capable of balancing rights and responsibilities on their own.”

Black Markets on the Beach

Christopher Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says the new law may not achieve its stated goals.

“I don’t know whether raising the purchase age will reduce smoking and smoking-related deaths,” Snowdon said. “The most likely effect will be an expansion of the black and grey markets. It may also create the impression that tobacco is a forbidden fruit.”

Snowdon says Hawaii is just one front in a global war on individual responsibility.

“There is a growing campaign in some countries to stop anybody born after the year 2000 from buying tobacco,” Snowdon said. “At the moment, that means people 16 or under [would be banned] … but the plan is to have incremental prohibition. By 2025, for example, only people over the age of 25 [would be able to] buy tobacco.”

‘The Name of the Game’

“I would not be surprised to see this happen in a country like Australia or Singapore,” Snowdon said. “Prohibition has always been the name of the game.

“The objective is clearly not to allow adults to make their own decisions, but to force people to behave as the government, or the pressure groups behind the government, would wish,” Snowdon said.

Gabrielle Cintorino ([email protected]) writes from Nashville, Tennessee.