Hawaiian Lawmaker Wants To Raise Smoking Age To 100

By Kelly Burch 02/07/19

In 2016, Hawaii raised the legal smoking age to 21.

Hawaiian man smoking a cigarette

A state representative in Hawaii wants to take a hardline approach to cigarettes, by banning their sale and raising the legal age to 100. 

“The state is obliged to protect the public’s health,” state Representative Richard Creagan told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “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.”

Creagan, a physician, started smoking when he was a teenager and used cigarettes to stay awake through medical school. However, he said he now realizes just how dangerous cigarettes are. 

“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,” he said. 

In Hawaii the legal smoking age is 21, already higher than in much of the country. However, Creagan said this is not effective at stopping young smokers. 

“It’s slowing it down, but it’s not stopping the problem,” he said. 

Creagan’s proposal—which has two other sponsors—would gradually raise the legal age to purchase cigarettes. Next year it would rise to 30, to 40 in 2021, 50 in 2022 and 60 in 2023. By 2024, the legal smoking age in Hawaii would be 100. 

The plan does not include cigars, chewing tobacco or vapes, which Creagan sees as less harmful alternatives to cigarettes. 

However, Creagan’s efforts may seem slightly misguided in light of current research about tobacco and nicotine use among youth. Although tobacco use remains relatively low among teens, the Monitoring The Future survey released in 2018 found that the use of vapes is increasing dramatically. 

“Vaping is reversing hard-fought declines in the number of adolescents who use nicotine,” said Richard Miech, the lead author and investigator of the study. “These results suggest that vaping is leading youth into nicotine use and nicotine addiction, not away from it. If we want to prevent youth from using drugs, including nicotine, vaping will warrant special attention in terms of policy, education campaigns, and prevention programs in the coming years.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.