The US state already has some of the strongest restrictions on smoking anywhere in the world and is now considering legislation that would effectively amount to a total ban.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on February 6, 2019

The new bill proposes raising the age to legally buy cigarettes to 30 in 2020, 40 in 2021, then 50 and 60 in the following years, before it reaches the prohibitive age of 100 in 2024.

The bill begins with the words: “The legislature finds that the cigarette is considered the deadliest artifact in human history.”

Lawmaker warns cigarettes will “kill one billion people”

“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 bill continues.

“The legislature also finds that smoking has killed one hundred million people in the twentieth century and is likely to kill one billion people in the twenty-first century.”

The bill was introduced by Richard Creagan, a Democrat who has also worked as a doctor. He told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that taxes and regulations were “slowing down” smoking but not eliminating it. Back in 2016, Hawaii became the first US state to raise the legal smoking age of 21.

“Essentially, we have a group who are heavily addicted,” Creagan said. “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.”

His proposed legislation would not ban cigars, electronic smoking devices or chewing tobacco. Tourists would still be able to bring cigarettes into the state.

Lynn Kozlowski of the State University of New York at Buffalo said that such a ban could create a black market for cigarettes. He said history had shown prohibitionist policies were not effective.

“If you can use ways to make the public fully aware of how dangerous cigarettes are, understand the differential risks, differentially tax these products, that’s been shown to have an effect on bringing smoking down,” Kozlowski said. “A ban is not a tool I would turn to at this time.”

Smoking on the wane and a crackdown on youth vaping

Michael Segel, a Professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, told USA Today that Creagan’s bill was probably overly optimistic but that smoking rates had declined so far that “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.’’

Youth smoking rates had been in decline for two decades but experienced an uptick last year. This trend was linked to vaping and in November 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took measures to limit the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes which have been seen as a stepping stone to cigarette smoking.

These measures included restricting the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes except for mint, menthol and tobacco and requiring sweetly flavoured e-cigarettes to be only sold through retailers or online stores with age verification practices in place. Further, these flavoured vapes could no longer be on display for sale in view of minors. They had previously been on readily accessible in convenience stores and petrol stations.

“I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said at the time. “We won’t let this pool of kids, a pool of future potential smokers, of future disease and death, to continue to build. We’ll take whatever action is necessary to stop these trends from continuing.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection suggests that if current smoking rates continue, some 5.6 million Americans will die early from smoking-related

Header image credit: WillSpirit SBLN