Hawaiians who smoke may want to stock up on their favorite brand of cigarettes—or consider quitting cold turkey. A lawmaker from the state of Hawaii’s Big Island has proposed age restrictions that would essentially ban the sale of cigarettes by 2024.
According to the Associated Press, Democratic state Representative Richard Creagan wants to increase the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 30 in 2020. The age would increase incrementally to 40 in 2021, 50 in 2022, 60 in 2023, and 100 in 2024. So unless the state has a large contingent of smoking centenarians, it seems unlikely that stores would continue to carry packs of Camels or Marlboro Lights.
However, the ban wouldn’t cover all tobacco products. Cigars, chewing tobacco, and e-cigarette products (many of which contain nicotine) would remain exempt and therefore available.
If passed, Hawaii would be the first state to ban the sale of cigarettes in recent history. The state already has some of the country’s strictest cigarette laws, including comparatively high tax rates ($3.20 in taxes per pack) and a minimum smoking age of 21 [PDF]. Creagan, who is also a physician and former smoker, says these measures aren’t enough to deter smokers, though. “It’s slowing it down, but it’s not stopping the problem,” he told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
He said the measure is ultimately designed to protect the health of Hawaii’s residents. “We, as legislators, have a duty to do things to save people’s lives. If we don’t ban cigarettes, we are killing people,” he said. The state’s House Health Committee is expected to hear the bill this week.
Although this marks a shift in the national discussion surrounding cigarettes, the measure has historic precedent. Fifteen states banned the sale of cigarettes from 1890 to 1927, partially overlapping with Prohibition (from 1920 to 1933). The cigarette ban was deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court, but industry pressure and the appeal of tax revenue put an end to those bans.
In the United States, cigarette smoking accounts for approximately 480,000 deaths a year. Globally, nearly 6 million die from tobacco use annually, and if current trends continue, that number is expected to increase to 8 million by the year 2030.
Sounds like a good time to quit.