Hawaii lawmakers consider raising the minimum smoking age to 100

Hawaii lawmakers consider raising the minimum smoking age to 100

Thanks to its beautiful beaches, lush green forests, and stunning volcanic mountaintop views, Hawaii is the one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. But for non-smokers, the state might become even more of a paradise. Lawmakers are considering raising the minimum smoking age to 100, which would effectively ban the sale of cigarettes.

Currently, Hawaiians have to be 21 to purchase cigarettes. Under Democratic representative Richard Creagan's proposed legislation, that age would rise incrementally over the five years. In 2020, the minimum smoking age would rise to 30. Then it would jump to 40 in 2021, 50 in 2022, 60 in 2023 and 100 in 2024. Unless there's a sudden rise in centenarians, Hawaii would become the first state to become essentially smoke-free.

Aerial view of Honolulu, Hawaii Credit: Getty

Creagan, who is a physician, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. taxes and health warnings have not done enough to deter people from smoking. "It’s slowing it down, but it’s not stopping the problem," said the lawmaker. "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."

“The state is obliged to protect the public’s health," Creagan continued. "We don’t allow people free access to opioids, for instance, or any prescription drugs. 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."

Cigarette butts spelling the word stop Credit: Getty

The bill would not apply to cigars, chewing tobacco or electronic cigarettes, since Creagan sees them as safer alternatives. (At least, when they don't explode.) For similar reasons, he also supports the legalization of marijuana, claiming it is not as addictive nor as dangerous as cigarettes. And Creagan's no stranger to nicotine:  While working grueling shifts at his medical residency, he smoked cigarettes to stay awake. And as a teenager, he once picked tobacco for a summer job.

Creagan’s bill, which has two other sponsors, is expected to be heard by the House Health Committee this week. Should it pass, one day you'll be able to admire Hawaii's astonishing beauty without the risk of inhaling a gust of toxic smoke. (Unless you're standing next to a 100-year-old smoker.)