In June 2015 Hawaii enacted a law increasing the minimum age to use tobacco products to 21, making it the first state to do so in the 21st century. Seventeen other states that, including Hawaii contain 50.7% of the U.S. population, have done the same in the four years since.
The first tobacco age limit in U.S. history was imposed in New Jersey in 1883 and set a minimum age of 16. By 1920, 14 states had a minimum tobacco age of 21. However, over the course of the 1920s and 1930s, many states with age restrictions over 21 lowered their tobacco age limit, often to 18. At the turn of the 21st century, Alabama, Alaska, and Utah had a tobacco age of 19 and the remaining 47 states had a tobacco age of 18.
Of the 18 states to recently raise their tobacco age to 21, eight did so under a Democratic trifecta, six under divided government, and four under a Republican trifecta. Nine Democratic governors and eight Republicans have signed increases in tobacco age restrictions. Maine’s legislature passed a tobacco age increase over the veto of Gov. Paul LePage (R).
As of August 9, the tobacco age was 18 in 37 states (including seven where a law increasing the tobacco age has been signed but is yet to take effect), 19 in three states (including Utah, where an increase to 21 is pending), and 21 in the remaining 10. The next states where a tobacco age increase will take effect are Arkansas, Texas, and Vermont, where the tobacco age will increase to 21 on September 1.