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Hawaii could be first in US to ban sale of cigarettes

HONOLULU (KHON2) – Hawaii could be the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of cigarettes, if a current proposal becomes law.

Adults younger than age 30 could be legally prohibited from buying cigarettes in less than a year’s time — and all cigarette sales would be banned in Hawaii in five years — under a bill by State Representative Richard Creagan. The bill was co-signed by Representatives John Mizuno, also a Democrat, and Cynthia Thielen, a Republican.

“We’re taxing them, that did decrease use somewhat, but we still have 140,000 people in our state that smoke cigarettes. You don’t see them as much anymore, because we kind of made them hide. But, they’re going to die, half of them are going to die if they keep smoking, and we can prevent that.”

Creagan dismisses the argument that his proposal would take away a smoker’s civil liberty, saying it is something the tobacco industry has long cited. KHON2 was unable to reach the American Civil Liberties Union for comment on this story. 

Creagan says smokers are horribly addicted and need freedom from enslavement.

Smokers and non-smokers have mixed feelings.

Kenny Tsai says, “I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s taking away our rights to choose. That’s what I think.”

Frank Raken says, “Even though like it’s 21, you have to be 21, there is still kind of places that you can actually get cigarettes or, you know, how they ask someone to buy for them. It’s gonna be a good idea.”

Vickson Victor enjoys smoking and says, “It’s my right. It’s my life. So, it’s my choice.”

State Representative Richard Creagan is a retired emergency room physician, who believes that from his Capitol office, he can save more lives. 

In addition to smokers’ addiction, Creagan says the state also is addicted — to 110-million dollars in annual, cigarette-tax revenue. While Creagan would prefer the ban be immediate and total, he realizes beneficiaries of those tax dollars, the UH Cancer Research Center and John A. Burns School of Medicine, can’t go cold-turkey. That is why the ban would be unrolled in phases.

Creagan believes, if Hawaii becomes the first cigarette-free destination, visitors will flock here.

“Our beaches will be free of cigarette butts, our parks, all of that. Kids won’t be exposed. You won’t have to worry about your baby or your dog chewing on a cigarette butt, I mean, we’ll be the first state to be cigarette-free and i think that’s really cool.”

Hawaii was first to raise the legal smoking age to 21 and with the proposed ban, he believes the state should continue to be a beacon for the rest of the nation.