You Could Soon Have to be 100 to Buy Cigarettes in Hawaii

A Hawaiian lawmaker has introduced legislation that would gradually ban the sale of cigarettes for anyone under the age of 100.

Hawaii lawmaker Richard Creagan, a doctor, conceived the legislation so that it would incrementally increase the smoking age every year from 2020. It would increase from 30 in 2020 to 40 in 2021, 50 in 2022, 60 in 2023 and finally jump to 100 in 2024. The ban would not be applied to e-cigarettes or other newer delivery systems.

This would build on Hawaii’s existing laws that, unusually for the United States as a whole, doesn’t allow the sale of cigarettes to people under the age of 21. Creagan is effectively arguing that the rationale to ban selling cigarettes to under-21s applies just as much to the over-21s and that the state has a legitimate interest in intervening.

“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 highly lethal. And, it is,”  Creagan told the Associated Press. “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. We, as legislators, have a duty to do things to save people’s lives. If we don’t ban cigarettes, we are killing people.”

At first glance, the legislation seems so aggressive in how it would snip away at the smoking age we might guess it would never stand constitutional challenge. However, Creagan has some firm grounding on which to stand.

Firstly, he is a doctor himself and is also a former smoker who used smoking as a crutch during his medical training. As a doctor he also been witness to the many health complaints that can arise as a result of this habit. These can include lung cancers, heart disease, increased risk of throat cancers and Alzheimer’s disease. The Centers for Disease Control notes that there is no organ in the human body that smoking does not damage.

In addition to this, while taxation may be a source of income for our governments, the United States alone spends billions of dollars every single year treating smoking-related diseases for the 16 million or so Americans that smoking directly harms. It is likely that far more people are indirectly impacted by second hand smoke and are also incurring costs.

To put into perspective just how damaging smoking is, the CDC notes that it singly causes more deaths per year than the combined figures for HIV, illegal drugs, alcohol use, road accidents and firearm incidents.

What about balancing those impacts against a person’s rights to do as they see fit with their health? Again, there is evidence to suggest that Creagan’s ban could stand constitutional challenge.

There is some historic precedent for a ban on smoking. Between 1890 and 1927, 15 states banned the sale of cigarettes. This was partly around the Prohibition policing that was also going on in this period. The Supreme Court actually ruled those bans constitutional, in part on the basis of there being a sound government reason to want to restrict harmful substances and protect the general public. Those bans were eventually overturned, not through legal challenge, but by the tobacco industry campaigning heavily and promising tax revenue on cigarettes.

Creagan’s ban would not impact the sale of newer nicotine delivery methods like vape pens and e-cigarettes. While there is some significant evidence that e-cigarettes are harmful, at the moment the consensus is that it is manifestly less harmful than cigarette smoking.

There is also a good body of evidence to suggest that once adult smokers transition to vaping they will often be able to quit smoking cigarettes. However, there are concerns that, for teenagers, vaping is a gateway to smoking cigarettes.

By leaving vaping unaffected, this ban would leave the door open for a transition from smoking to this apparently less harmful habit, thereby softening the government infringement on civil liberties.

The legislation will still have to pass Hawaii’s lawmaking chambers, and even if it does manage that it would likely be tied up in the courts for several years. However, a return to a virtual total ban on smoking changes the national conversation about cigarettes and reframes it not as if governments should ban smoking but as a case of when it will muster the courage to do so.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

79 comments

Carole R
Carole R2 months ago

I love it.

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Frances G
Carla G2 months ago

Thank you

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine Andersen2 months ago

As an ex smoker I can attest to just how addicting they are and after watching my late husband, and a good friend die of the same smoking caused cancer in a year I can honestly say that smoking should be on the hit list along with opioids. I am sure cigarette companies knew exactly what they doing and they should be paying to help people quit.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

ban it now

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

There are only a few actual tobacco makes in the world. A third of the world's cigarettes are made in China

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

people will buy rubbing tobacco so you will have to ban all tobacco sales

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

th

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Daniel N
Past Member 2 months ago

tyfs

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