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Hawaii Hopes To Effectively Ban Cigarettes – By Raising The Smoking Age To 100



Politicians in Hawaii are hoping to effectively ban the sale of cigarettes by raising the state's minimum age to 100. That's right – if the bill is passed (still an if, at this stage), you will need to be in the three-digit age bracket to legally purchase a pack of smokes.

"The legislature finds that the cigarette is considered the deadliest artifact in human history," the bill (HB 1509) begins.


"The cigarette is an unreasonably dangerous and defective product, killing half of its long-term users. Further, although the cigarette is addictive by design due to the presence of nicotine, the tobacco industry has further manipulated the design of cigarettes in order to increase cigarette addiction and habituation."

The new bill would enforce the ban incrementally over a five-year period, raising the minimum age to 30 in 2020, 40 in 2021, 50 in 2022, 60 in 2023, and, ultimately, 100 in 2024. This does technically mean that centenarians retain their right to puff away, but they might be hard pressed to find any actual cigarettes if the bill does come into force.

The man behind the bill is Rep. Richard Creagan, a Democrat in the state House of Representatives for Hawaii's Fifth Representative District (South Kona/Ka‘u). Creagan, a former emergency room doctor, hopes the Aloha State will be the first to effectively ban cigarettes by taking them off store shelves as, presumably, centenarian clients won't create much of a demand.

"Basically, we essentially have a group who are heavily addicted – in my view, enslaved by a ridiculously bad industry – which has enslaved them by designing a cigarette that is highly addictive, knowing that it is highly lethal. And, it is," Creagan told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.


"We don’t allow people free access to opioids, for instance, or any prescription drugs," he continued. "This is more lethal, more dangerous than any prescription drug, and it is more addicting. In my view, you are taking people who are enslaved from a horrific addiction, and freeing people from horrific enslavement."

The ban does not prevent tourists from bringing cigarettes into the state from elsewhere, nor does it extend to other tobacco products (e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and cigars). The thought being that non-combustible tobacco products (e-cigs and chewing tobacco) are less harmful than cigarettes, while certain combustible products (cigars) are not inhaled and so less dangerous. (The American Cancer Society might have something to say about this.)

So, why raise the minimum age to 100? Why not outright ban cigarettes altogether? 

The relationship between federal and state law makes the implementation of an all-out ban tricky to negotiate, but states like Hawaii do retain the right to increase the legal age limit beyond a minimum of 18 years. The Hawaii legislature has already raised the smoking age to 21, becoming the first state to do so in 2016.


This followed a report published by the Institute of Medicine in 2015 that found "there would be approximately 223,000 fewer premature deaths, 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost for those born between 2000 and 2019" if the smoking age was raised to 21 years nationwide.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate a death toll of close to half a million Americans every year from smoking or inhalation of second-hand smoke, calling it the top cause of preventable disease and death in the country.

To become law, however, this bill will need to pass through the state legislature and, in all likelihood, face pressure from America's tobacco industry. It is set to be heard later this week by members of the House Health Committee.


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