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Hawaii lawmaker drops plan to ban cigarettes until age 100

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A lawmaker who wanted to restrict the sale of cigarettes to people who are 100 years old or older backpedaled from his proposal today, suggesting instead that his bill be amended to limit cigarette sales to people who are age 25 or older. However, the bill failed anyway.

State Rep. Richard Creagan, (D, Naalehu-Captain Cook-Keauhou), originally proposed in House Bill 1509 that the legal age for purchasing cigarettes be increased to 30 years old next year, to 50 years old in 2022, to 60 in 2023, and to 100 years of age in 2024.

During testimony before the House Health Committee this morning, Creagan proposed that his bill be amended to raise the age to purchase tobacco products from the current age of 21 to 25 years old.

Creagan, who is a physician, and said increasing the age for purchasing cigarettes to 25 would be particularly beneficial to women because “women have been found to initiate smoking in their 20s more than men, and because of the predicted protective effect on health and pregnancy of both the mother and the fetus at an age when many women have their first pregnancy.”

Creagan also proposed that the Hawaii State Auditor or some other entity study the implications of raising the age for cigarette sales in steps to 100 years old as the bill originally outlined.

Even with those amendments, House Health Committee Chairman John Mizuno warned it would be difficult to advance that bill out of his committee, and he recommended that the bill be shelved. The Health Committee then voted unanimously to defer action on the bill indefinitely, with state Rep. Nadine Nakamura absent for the vote.

Mizuno was a co-sponsor of HB 1509, and told the audience that 1,400 people in Hawaii die of smoking-related causes each year, and the annual health care cost linked to smoking in Hawaii is about $526 million.

“We commend our colleague for this cutting edge piece of legislation,” said Mizuno, (D, Kamehameha Heights-Kalihi Valley). “The state of Hawaii’s just not ready for this massive change yet.”

House Republican Minority leader Gene Ward noted that Creagan’s proposal to essentially outlaw smoking received a great deal of media coverage, and other lawmakers in other places might embrace the idea.

“So, Dr. Creagan has not introduced this in vain, and it’s probably only a temporary thing before it rises itself either here or some other place in the world,” said Ward, (R, Kalama Valley-Queen’s Gate-Hawaii Kai).

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