Next time a centenarian tells an interviewer they’ve reached old age while smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, it won’t be a Hawaiian. That’s assuming a bill passes that would raise the smoking age on the archipelago to 100 by the year 2024.
The bill is the handiwork of state representative Richard Creagan, who told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that existing taxes and regulations are not doing enough to defeat tobacco smoking. “This is more lethal, more dangerous than any prescription drug, and it is more addicting,” he said in an interview published Sunday.
“In my view, you are taking people who are enslaved from a horrific addiction, and freeing people from horrific enslavement,” he told the Tribune-Herald.
Creagan’s bill leaves electronic cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco untouched. A separate state bill would raise the excise tax from 16 cents a pack to 21 cents. It will also mandate that the state uses the funds from the excise hike for health programs and research.
Hawaii already requires cigarette buyers to be age 21, in common with Boston and New York City, plus countries including Singapore, Honduras and Sri Lanka. If Creagan’s bill passes, Hawaii will join Bhutan and Turkmenistan in legislating near-total bans on tobacco smoking.
According to the state’s department of health, tobacco kills over 1,100 Hawaiians a year and costs $336 million in direct healthcare costs. It adds that smoking kills, “more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also says that cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 U.S. deaths per year, including 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoking, equivalent to about one in five deaths in the country.