It will soon be illegal for troops under the age of 21 to purchase or use cigarettes or other tobacco products in Hawaii.

On Jan. 1, Hawaii will become the first state to ban tobacco sales and use for anyone under the age of 21. The law will apply to everyone in Hawaii, including service members, their families and guests on U.S. military installations, according to Navy and Marine Corps messages.

Navy and Marine Corps Exchanges will stop selling tobacco products — including smokeless tobacco and E cigarettes — to anyone under 21, the messages say, because military installations in Hawaii "are subject to concurrent jurisdiction."

Under the new law, anyone younger than 21 who is caught buying, using or possessing tobacco products can be fined between $10 and $50 and be sentenced to between 48 and 72 hours of community service, according to Marine administrative message 649/15. Anyone who sells or provides tobacco products to someone younger than 21 faces fines between $500 and $2,000.

“Local commanders will enforce compliance of the law and disseminate the details of this rapidly approaching change to state law to military personnel and their families to ensure their knowledge and understanding of the law and its implications,” Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, wrote in the message.

There is an exception to the law for some troops in Hawaii though. The new age restrictions won't apply to service members aboard naval vessels, even if they are docked in Hawaii, because all U.S. ships are subject exclusively to federal law and Defense Department policy, according to Navy officials.

That means ships' stores aboard Navy ships could still sell tobacco products to those under 21.

“State law is not applied aboard naval vessels of the United States on the basis of sovereign immunity, and therefore state laws do not regulate stores operated aboard such vessels,” a Navy official said.

However, Navy Department property in Hawaii is subject to both federal and state laws, the official added. That means state and local police have the authority to enforce state laws at both Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Oahu and Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

The commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific is urging sailors to see the Hawaii law as an opportunity to quit smoking.

“Some sailors spend 10 dollars a day on their nicotine habit,” Rear Adm. John Fuller wrote in a Nov. 19 commentary. “That leads to nearly $4,000 a year and close to $40,000 in 10 years.”

But the physical consequences of smoking are far more damaging, Fuller wrote. A Defense Department official noted in a memorandum last year that smoking can shorten one's life by 10 years.

“The new smoking age law in Hawaii makes good sense and supports the good health of our service members and their families,” Fuller wrote. “It’s really hard to make a logical argument against improved health and readiness and cost savings to both individuals and the government – I’m just saying.”

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