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Hawaii Bill Would Raise Legal Smoking Age by ... Well, a Lot

Minimum legal smoking age in Hawaii would rise incrementally through 2024
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2019 7:40 AM CST
If a bill in Hawaii passes, you'll soon have to be a centenarian to buy these there.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

(Newser) – Hawaii wants to free a "heavily addicted" group that's been "enslaved by a ridiculously bad industry." That's per state Rep. Richard Creagan, an ER doctor and the sponsor of a bill that goes after "the deadliest artifact in human history"—the cigarette. How HB 1509 would do so: by slowly raising the minimum age at which people can buy cigarettes until it hits 100 in 2024, so that eventually only the state's oldest residents would be able to purchase them (if they can track any down). Hawaii is one of six states whose minimum buying age has already been raised to 21, USA Today notes; the others are California, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon. Tourists could still bring in their smokes, and the sales ban wouldn't apply to cigars, e-cigarettes, or chewing tobacco, per CNN.

If the bill passes, the first change would come in 2020, when cigarette purchasers would need to produce ID showing they're 30. The legal age would stairstep to 40, then 50, then 60, then 100 over the following four years. The by-degrees approach would allow time for Hawaii to figure out how to recoup the $100 million per year it brings in from cigarette sales taxes. Although Creagan—a pot legalization advocate who doesn't think marijuana is as bad for you, nor as addictive, as cigarettes—knows the bill could receive pushback in the courts, he believes it will hold up. "We don't allow people free access to opioids, for instance, or any prescription drugs," he tells the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. "This is more lethal, more dangerous than any prescription drug, and it is more addicting." (Read more Hawaii stories.)

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