Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi and Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha on Thursday signed a bill raising the age to purchase tobacco.
The law goes into effect on July 1 and will prohibit the sale of tobacco products to people younger than age 21. The signing follows the unanimous 9-0 passage of Bill 135 by the Hawaii County Council on Nov. 20.
The bill doesn’t make it illegal for young people to smoke; it penalizes retail stores for selling tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and electronic cigarettes. Retailers selling to underage customers would be subject to a $500 fine for the first offense and from $500 to $2,000 for subsequent offenses. The bill includes a grandfather period for those already older than 18, the current age at which federal law allows people to buy tobacco.
Hawaii County joins two Massachusetts towns and New York City in raising the age to buy cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, electronic smoking devices and the like to 21. It is the first county in the state to enact such legislation.
See the Friday edition of West Hawaii Today for full coverage.