February 5, 2019 12:38 pm
Updated: February 5, 2019 1:15 pm

Hawaii lawmaker wants to ban cigarette sales for anyone under 100 years old

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A bill effectively banning the sale of cigarettes in Hawaii is passing through the state’s Senate this week. If passed, it means in a few years, nobody under the age of 100 would be able to buy cigarettes in the state.

Hawaii already has strict smoking regulations. It was the first state to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 from 18. But now a state lawmaker wants to raise that age again — and quite higher.

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READ MORE: Canada could soon put cancer warnings on individual cigarettes

State Rep. Richard Creagan, an emergency room doctor, has sponsored legislation that aims to gradually phase in a cigarette ban. So next year the minimum age for buying cigarettes would be 30, in 2021 it would be 40, in 2022 it would be 50 and then in 2024, it would be 100.

People would still be able to bring them into the state.

“The legislature finds that the cigarette is considered the deadliest artifact in human history,” the bill states. “The cigarette is an unreasonably dangerous and defective product, killing half of its long-term users.”

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The bill, expected to be debated in committee this week, would exempt electronic cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco from the ban.

Creagan told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald he does not think taxes or regulations are doing enough to get people to stop smoking, and he wants to see them off the shelves for good.

“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,” he said.

He also told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald he is confident the bill will survive any court challenges.

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Creagan said that he believes the state is “obligated to protect the public’s health” in the same way the government does not allow free access to opioids or any prescription drugs.

Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, told USA Today the ambitious bill will probably get watered down in the legislature and will likely face opposition from the tobacco industry.

However, the fact that smoking rates are dropping could help give the bill some traction, he added.

READ MORE: Canada’s smoking rate falls slightly, down to 17.7 per cent in 2015, StatsCan says

“Because smoking rates are getting so low, we can actually start thinking about what I call end-game strategy, meaning we’re at the point where we can feasibly just make smoking history.”

“We couldn’t even talk about it when there was a large percentage of people smoking because there were too many people affected.’’

In Canada, smoking rates have been steadily falling over the years. A study released in 2017 by the Canadian Community Health Survey, found 17.7 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and older — or roughly 5.3 million people — smoked either daily or occasionally in 2015, down slightly from 18.1 per cent a year earlier.

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