A Big Island lawmaker has proposed incrementally increasing the minimum age to buy cigarettes, leading to a practical ban across Hawaii.
Democratic state Rep. Richard Creagan proposed legislation aimed at making the state the first in the country to ban the sale of cigarettes for everyone except people age 100 and over, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.
Under his bill, the minimum smoking age would increase to 30 in 2020, to 40 in 2021, to 50 in 2022, to 60 in 2023 and to 100 in 2024.
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The measure would not apply to e-cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco.
Creagan said taxes and other regulations have slowed down tobacco use, but have not stopped the problem.
"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 said.
Creagan said he started smoking as a teenager and did so regularly during his medical residency. The state is obligated to "protect the public's health," he said.
"This is more lethal, more dangerous than any prescription drug, and it is more addicting," Creagan said. "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."
The measure is expected to be heard by a state House committee this week.
Hawaii is one of only a few states that do not allow the sale of cigarettes to anyone under age of 21.