Bill aims to stamp out cig­a­rette use

Leg­is­la­tion doesn’t af­fect cigars, e-cigs or chew­ing to­bacco.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - NATION & WORLD - By Lind­sey Bever

Law­mak­ers in Hawaii have pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would be­gin phas­ing out cig­a­rettes in the state, ban­ning them al­to­gether within the next sev­eral years.

At least for peo­ple younger than 100.

The bi­par­ti­san bill, HB1509, aims to raise the le­gal min­i­mum age to use cig­a­rettes to ex­clude ev­ery­one but cen­te­nar­i­ans by 2024 to “keep peo­ple healthy and alive in the Aloha State,” state Rep. Cyn­thia Thie­len, a Repub­li­can who is one of the spon­sors of the bill, said Tues­day af­ter­noon in a phone in­ter­view with The Washington Post.

“I know it may be a hard road,” Thie­len added, “but you have to take that first, strong step — and that’s what we’re do­ing.”

In re­cent years, Hawaii has been at the fore­front of the to­bacco de­bate, in­creas­ing taxes and reg­u­la­tions and be­com­ing the first state in the na­tion to ban smok­ing for peo­ple younger than 21.

But Thie­len said that pre­vi­ous leg­is­la­tion has sim­ply “poked at dif­fer­ent por­tions of the prob­lem.”

The pro­posed bill, which was in­tro­duced late last month, “hits at the cen­ter of it and pro­hibits smok­ing in our state,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to HB1509, cig­a­rettes are “con­sid­ered the dead­li­est ar­ti­fact in hu­man his­tory,” caus­ing “more pre­ventable dis­ease, death, and dis­abil­ity than any other health is­sue” in the state.

The bill aims to raise the le­gal min­i­mum age to pur­chase or pos­sess cig­a­rettes to 30 by next year, 40 by 2021, 50 by 2022, 60 by 2023 and 100 by 2024.

The timetable would al­low the state to plan for a loss in cig­a­rette-tax rev­enue, ac­cord­ing to re­ports. The bill does not ap­ply to cigars, chew­ing to­bacco or e-cig­a­rettes.

State Rep. Richard Crea­gan, a Demo­crat who is the bill’s co-spon­sor, told the Hawaii Tri­bune-Her­ald that he does not think the state is over­reach­ing.

“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,” he told the news­pa­per.

Crea­gan, a physi­cian, added that the state “is obliged to pro­tect the pub­lic’s health.”

“This is more lethal, more dan­ger­ous than any pre­scrip­tion drug, and it is more ad­dict­ing,” Crea­gan told the news­pa­per, re­fer­ring to cig­a­rettes. “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 and the bill’s third spon­sor, state Rep. John Mizuno, a Demo­crat, could not be reached for com­ment by The Washington Post.

Cig­a­rettes are the lead­ing pre­ventable cause of death in the United States, caus­ing more than 480,000 fa­tal­i­ties across the coun­try each year, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

The CDC states that cig­a­rette smok­ing has been linked to 90 per­cent of all deaths from lung can­cer and 80 per­cent of all deaths from chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease (COPD).

As The Post has pre­vi­ously re­ported, re­search has shown that most adult smok­ers ad­mit that they be­gan smok­ing as teenagers — an age when, pub­lic health ad­vo­cates say, to­bacco is par­tic­u­larly dam­ag­ing. But stud­ies have also shown that smok­ers who quit be­tween ages 35 and 44 may avoid an early death.

Thie­len, one of the spon­sors of the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, said that pass­ing the bill will be “a chal­lenge,” but she added that it is the “ini­tial push to say, ‘This is im­por­tant. We need to act on it.’”

MARK LENNIHAN / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS 2017

In re­cent years, Hawaii has hiked taxes and reg­u­la­tions and be­come the first state to ban smok­ing for peo­ple younger than 21. But a new bill aims to raise the le­gal min­i­mum age to pur­chase or pos­sess cig­a­rettes to 100 by 2024.

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