Hawaii, where smoking laws are already tough, considers ban on cigarette sales

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Feb. 1, 2019 at 12:13 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In 2016, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to ban the sale of cigarettes to anyone under 21.

Now, lawmakers are looking at even tougher prohibitions around cigarette sales.

Under a proposal before the state Legislature, cigarette sales would be effectively banned outright by 2024.

The ban would go into effect progressively, starting with raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 30 in 2020.

By 2022, no one under 50 could buy cigarettes.

And two years later, no one under 100 would be allowed to buy cigarettes.

The measure, House Bill 1509, is a long shot. It passed its first reading last week, a procedural hurdle, and has been assigned to committees. But it doesn’t yet have a hearing.

That doesn’t mean it won’t get one, especially after news of the proposal started generating headlines nationally.

The authors of the bill, two Democratic representatives and a Republican, say the proposed ban simply makes sense.

“The cigarette is considered the deadliest artifact in human history,” they write, in their preamble to the measure. “The cigarette is an unreasonably dangerous and defective productive, killing half of its long-term users.”

Some 13 percent of Hawaii adults are smokers. That’s lower than the national average of 17 percent.

Hawaii also has one of the nation’s highest cigarette taxes, at $3,20 a pack. And more than a decade ago, the Hawaii Legislature significantly expanded smoke-free zones, and included e-cigarettes in those prohibitions three years ago.

Opponents of previous measures aimed at cutting cigarette use in the islands have accused lawmakers of attempting to institute a nanny state.

And others argue that instead of being concerned about cigarette use, lawmakers should turn their attention to e-cigarettes, whose use has ballooned among teens locally and nationally.

The measure before lawmakers that would ban cigarette sales would not include e-cigarettes.

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