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Tobacco

What State Could Ban Cigarette Sales?

Proposal could make legal age of purchase as high as 100
Photograph: Shutterstock

HONOLULU-- Local legislators in a state that already has what many consider to be among the toughest tobacco regulations in the country may soon consider a complete ban on cigarette sales, raising the legal age of purchase to 50 by 2022, according to Hawaii News Now.

A bill in Hawaii’s House of Representatives is working its way through the legislative process, and if passed, would begin with raising the legal age to purchase cigarettes from the current state minimum of 21 to 30 by 2020. By 2022, the age would rise to 50 and by 2024, the proposed law would effectively ban cigarette sales by raising the legal age of purchasing cigarettes to 100.

The proposal, which in early February was awaiting a formal hearing, does not include e-cigarettes.

While the Hawaii News Now report called the move a “long shot,” the two Democrats and one Republican sponsoring the bill said it’s a sensible move. The news organization cited the proposal as saying, “The cigarette is considered the deadliest artifact in human history [and is] an unreasonably dangerous and defective product, killing half of its long-term users.”

Hawaii has one of the nation’s highest cigarette taxes, at $3.20 a pack, with Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., being above $4 a pack and Massachusetts at $3.51 a pack, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Washington, D.C. Nationally, the average state tax for a pack of cigarettes is $1.79. Hawaii has also been on the forefront of tobacco legislation, expanding smoke-free zones almost 10 years ago and including e-cigarettes in those prohibitions three years ago.

The move comes amid strong language from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the topic of flavors in e-cigarettes and cigars, as well as potentially proposing a ban on menthol cigarettes.

Opponents of such laws cite concerns over illicit trade and demand for these products moving from regulated channels into the hands of organized crime. Trade groups such as Lakeville, Minn.-based NATO also suggest that regulation often doesn’t address the real source of problems, like minors obtaining tobacco products, which often lies outside retail and other legal means of product distribution.

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