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Up in Smoke: Hawaii Wants to Ban Cigarettes Until Age 100

Hawaii was the first U.S. state to raise the minimum tobacco purchase age to 21, and now a proposed bill would set the bar even higher — to age 100. If passed, the law would be implemented annually in age increments until reaching the full age of 100 in 2024.

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According to CNN Health, the reason for applying the law gradually is to give state government a chance to wean itself off the tax revenue it currently gets from cigarette sales. The new law, if passed, would not apply to e-cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco.

The idea of banning smoking in this bizarre way would be much more laudable if it were being applied across the board to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (vaping) and cigars, as both these products also affect nonusing bystanders.

While chewing tobacco doesn’t present a problem for someone else’s lungs, it still is a health hazard and cost for the user, as well as public health in general (if you don’t consider the spitting that goes along with the chewing).

But that governments have come to rely on tobacco taxes, it’s easy to understand why they’re reluctant to just ban something that provides so much revenue. That’s why, if you are familiar at all with the way governments work, it’s pretty much a given that Hawaii lawmakers’ next move will be to replace the lost cigarette revenue with higher taxes on what they haven’t banned.

That said, statistics show that e-cigarettes are the most popular nicotine- or tobacco-based product used by high school and middle school students — the very consumer group Big Tobacco wants to target, despite their protests to the contrary. So, by not banning e-cigarettes too, the state of Hawaii is basically encouraging young people to vape.

Even more concerning, though, is that vapers and other conventional tobacco users are still getting nicotine when they use the products, and therefore still are being exposed to the dangers of both nicotine and the appalling amounts of the heavy metals in e-cigs.

What this means is, while Hawaii is busy patting itself on the back for leading the pack in regulating conventional cigarettes, it still is colluding with Big Tobacco to keep you sick from the alternative products.

You need look no further than the December 2018 announcement by Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA, that it is investing in Juul e-cigs, to show what Big Tobacco thinks about cigarette bans. Ceremoniously, Altria announced its plans to end its production of Marlboro cigarettes to invest in Juul. Why would they do that, unless they see the writing on the wall, that cigarettes are going to be phased out by governments anyway?

The bottom line is, if lawmakers were truly interested in public health, they wouldn’t be leaving doors open for alternate ways to get nicotine — and tax money in their coffers.

While much remains to be revealed about how e-cigarettes affect human health in the long run, there are a few trends already in the making, with governments like Hawaii’s facilitating these trends. It’s obvious that e-cigarettes are set to become even more popular, and Juul in particular is poised to be here for the long haul, especially with Altria added to the mix.

The answer, then, is twofold: If you're a parent, be sure to talk to your kids about e-cigarettes, just as you would the combustible kind, and if you're an adult looking to quit smoking, remember that Juul and similar devices are also designed to get you to keep using them — much like cigarettes, so don’t be fooled by the idea that vaping is a viable alternative.