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According to the Hawaii state legislature, "the cigarette is considered the deadliest artifact in human history." And legislators have come up with a plan to battle that artifact, effectively phasing out cigarettes on the islands over the next five years.
A new bill introduced last week would raise the cigarette-buying age to 30 next year, raise it again to 40, 50, and 60 in each subsequent year, and then finally make the legal age to purchase cigarettes 100 by 2024. So, will the Aloha State's attempt to save everyone's breath work?
Hawaii already has some of the most restrictive cigarette laws in the nation. It became the first state to raise the age to buy cigarettes to 21 in 2016, and a year later banned smoking in a car with children. The new law would mean that in five years, cigarettes would be nearly impossible to find for locals, while tourists could bring them in. The proposed law also doesn't apply to cigars, chewing tobacco, or e-cigarettes.
"We're taxing them, that did decrease use somewhat, but we still have 140,000 people in our state that smoke cigarettes," said State Representative Richard Creagan, a retired emergency room doctor who sponsored the legislation. "You don't see them as much anymore, because we kind of made them hide. But, they're going to die, half of them are going to die if they keep smoking, and we can prevent that."
The statistics the state uses to support the statute are staggering:
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. As of 2013, smoking has killed about six million people worldwide per year, with hundreds of thousands of these deaths occurring in the United States alone. In Hawaii, cigarettes have caused more preventable disease, death, and disability than any other health issue, each year claiming the lives of more than one thousand four hundred adults and contributing to more than twenty thousand premature deaths of minors.
Still, the bill is facing some backlash. "I don't think it's a good idea," Kenny Tsai told KHON. "It's taking away our rights to choose." "It's my right. It's my life," added Vickson Victor. "So, it's my choice."
But Creagan believes the ban will be a net positive or the state. "Our beaches will be free of cigarette butts, our parks, all of that. Kids won't be exposed. You won't have to worry about your baby or your dog chewing on a cigarette butt, I mean, we'll be the first state to be cigarette-free and I think that's really cool."
Hawaii was also the first state to ban Styrofoam food containers, pesticides containing the chemical chlorpyrifos (which has been linked to developmental disabilities in children), and certain sunscreens that contain reef-harming ingredients.
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