Smokers in Hawaii, US might have to wait for a long time to take a puff, as a new bill has been introduced to raise the legal smoking age to 100 in the state.
The proposed law is the brainchild of local Democratic representative, Dr. Richard Creagan, and its hearing by the House Health Committee is scheduled for this week.
Here's more on this.
Bill seeks to increase smoking age gradually
Before being elected as a state representative in 2014, Dr. Creagan was an emergency room physician.
The proposed bill, HB 1509, seeks the smoking age to gradually rise to 30 in 2020, 40 in 2021, 50 in 2022, 60 in 2023 and finally 100 in 2024.
Dr. Creagan has, in the bill, dubbed the cigarette "the deadliest artefact in human history."
'We, as legislators, have a duty to save people's lives'
"We don't allow people free access to opioid, for instance, any prescription drugs. The state is obliged to protect public health," Dr. Creagan said.
"We, as legislators, have a duty to save people's lives. If we don't ban cigarettes, we're killing people's lives," he said, adding that a "ridiculously bad industry" had designed the cigarette to be "highly addictive, knowing that it's highly lethal".
E-cigarettes, cigars not included as they are safer, says Creagan
"In my view, you are taking people who are enslaved from a horrific addiction, and freeing people from horrific enslavement," Dr. Creagan said.
Notably, e-cigarettes and cigars have been ruled out of the bill because Dr. Creagan believes they are significantly safer for smokers compared to regular cigarettes.
However, the National Cancer Institute warns that "all tobacco products are harmful and cause cancer."
Hawaii, first US state to increase smoking age to 21
Notably, Hawaii has one of the strictest laws against smoking in the US.
In January 2015, Hawaii became the first US state to raise the legal smoking age for cigarettes and e-cigarettes to 21.
In other states, legal smoking age is 18 or 19.
The same year, governor David Ige signed a bill banning smoking of cigarettes and e-cigarettes at state parks and beaches.
Creagan feels strict laws not enough to prevent habit
Last July, Democratic Senator Dru Kanuha introduced a bill to increase the excise tax on cigarettes from 16 cents (Rs. 11) to 21 cents (Rs. 15) in order to raise funds for health programs.
However, Dr. Creagan feels the laws are not enough to discourage people from taking up the habit.
"It's slowing it down, but it's not stopping the problem," he said.
Over 480,000 die every year in US due to smoking
As per the data of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the country. More than 480,000 people die every year in the United States from smoking-related conditions.