By Rachel Epperly
On February 5th, 2019 Democrat Richard Creagan proposed a new bill to raise the smoking age in Hawaii by 10 each year until the year 2024 where it will land at 100. A writer from BBC said that in an interview Creagan told them of his past medical field experience and that he refers to cigarettes as “the deadliest artefact in human history.”
In order for this bill to become state law, it will have to pass through the state legislature and go through much scrutiny from tobacco companies.
E-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco, and cigars will not be included in the bill, so they can still be bought at the age of 21. Even though the National Cancer Institute warns everyone that “all tobacco products are harmful and cause cancer,” Dr Creagan feels that these devices and substances are significantly safer than regular cigarettes.
About half a million United States citizens die every year from the preventable diseases that are caused by smoking. In January of 2017, rather than it being 18 or 19 like in other states, Hawaii was the first US state to raise their legal smoking age to 21. California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Maine were also quick to follow Hawaii in raising the legal age..
Before being elected as a state representative, Dr Creagan was an emergency room physician. After his time in the ER he has seen what can happen to those that use this addictive drug. Creagan feels that a “ridiculously bad industry” has made cigarettes so that they’re “highly addictive” along with being highly lethal.
For one of his arguments he compared the fact that “we don’t allow people free access to opioids or any prescription drugs,” so why are cigarettes any different?
If there was a higher percentage of smokers, more people would be affected and it would be harder to change this rule, but since the percentage of smokers is getting lower the rules are starting to change. The goal of this bill is to continue to lower the smoking rates and hopefully one day end it completely. Throughout the years the rates have been declining, so Creagan’s goal is to “use this as the end-game strategy” and “make smoking history.”
Hawaii and Alaska are both the top states of the US that have very clean and less polluted air than other states. Hawaii is low in industry and chemical plants making it a perfect environment for unpolluted air. Eliminating smoking would also be eliminating one of the main polluters of the fresh Hawaii air.
According to Melanie Yamaguchi of Hawaii News Now, Hawaii resorts have already had assigned spots where smoking is only allowed in that specific area at the resorts. Other than these spots smoking is illegal to do throughout the resorts, at state parks, and on beaches throughout Hawaii. Hawaii is one of the stricter states when it comes to smoking, so raising the smoking age would eliminate these issues completely.
Throughout the years, the smoking ages and amounts have decreased in Hawaii. In 1990, over 25% of the population of Hawaii were smokers. In a recent study from 2012-2018 the smoking percentage has decreased from 18% to now a little under 15%. By passing these new bills Hawaii could take the first step into ending smoking once and for all. If they can get their percentage to 0 smokers, then maybe the United States can too.