A bill now pending before the state legislature in Hawaii would raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes to 100 as of 2024. I kid you not.
This new legislation calls for raising the cigarette-buying age from 21 today to 30 by next year, up to 40, 50 and 60 in each subsequent year, and up to 100 by 2024.
"The legislature finds that the cigarette is considered the deadliest artifact in human history," the bill begins. "Further, although the cigarette is addictive by design due to the presence of nicotine, the tobacco industry has further manipulated the design of cigarettes in order to increase cigarette addiction and habituation," the bill continues.
"The legislature also finds that smoking has killed one hundred million people in the twentieth century and is likely to kill one billion people in the twenty-first century. As of 2013, smoking has killed about six million people worldwide per year, with hundreds of thousands of these deaths occurring in the United States alone.
"In Hawaii, cigarettes have caused more preventable disease, death, and disability than any other health issue, each year claiming the lives of more than one thousand four hundred adults and contributing to more than twenty thousand premature deaths of minors."
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Richard Creagan, an emergency room doctor, who told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, "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."
I have no way to know whether Creagan's bill has a snowball's chance in Hawaii of passing. The tobacco industry is sure to be all over it and its money should flow in the Aloha State. But should Hawaii's lawmakers pass it anyway, the industry certainly would challenge the bill's constitutionality in court.
However, Creagan says he is confident the law would be upheld, pointing out that unlike Second Amendment gun rights, the US Constitution does not recognize smoking as a fundamental right. He cites a 2012, a federal appeals court decision that upheld a lower court ruling against a smoker who challenged an anti-smoking ordinance in Clayton, MO, on grounds it violated his constitutional rights.
Of course, one way people could get around the ban would be to get an older person to purchase smokes for them -- just like I did as a kid.
But in 2024, that person would have to be at least 100 years old.