In a small street-side cafe deep within Hanoi’s labyrinthine Old Quarter, a group of middle-aged men sit drinking bitter iced tea, swapping stories, and smoking from a huge bamboo water pipe. Their attention is caught by a foreign tourist ordering a drink at a nearby table, and one of them beckons in broken English for him to join the group.
“You smoke, my friend?” he asks, pointing to the pipe. “It’s very good. Very strong. Makes you strong too.” Apologetic, the visitor refuses. “But you are in Vietnam,” the man insists, breaking into a broad gap-filled smile of yellowing teeth. “Men smoke here.”
In Vietnam, the consumption of tobacco has a longstanding history: from the traditional chewing of tobacco leaves, to the unstoppable rise of manufactured cigarettes in the late 20th century, to the recently growing taste for shisha. As home to over 15 million smokers, Vietnam is one of the 15 top consumers of tobacco in the world.
Last year, the County Council unanimously approved a bill to raise the age of sale of tobacco products to 21. That measure, Hawaii County Ordinance 13-124, takes effect Tuesday, July 1, 2014.
The law prohibits the distribution of tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices, to underage customers born after June 30, 1996.
Retailers need to be aware that anyone who is born after June 30, 1996 is prohibited from purchasing tobacco products or electronic smoking devices until they are 21 years of age.
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