Monday, June 22, 2015

Hawaii to raise legal smoking age to 21

With the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, Hawaii has decided to raise the legal age of smoking to 21.  Hawaii will become the first state in the country to do this.  There are real fears in the community and the nation that the growing popularity of e-cigarettes is encouraging teenagers to develop a taste for tobacco whereby the e-Cigarette becomes somewhat of a gateway drug.  The governor of Hawaii, David Ige, recently signed a bill that will raise the smoking age to 21.

Governor Ige said. “Raising the minimum age as part of our comprehensive tobacco control efforts will help reduce tobacco use among our youth and increase the likelihood that our keiki [children] will grow up tobacco-free.” 

When this law goes into effect, first offence is $10 and then up to $50 for subsequent offences. (total effing joke, but I'll touch on this in a minute)

Hawaii has found that 86 percent of their smokers got started when they were kids and so limiting access may help reduce that number.  

Many states have gone up to 19 years old as the legal age, but Hawaii is the first to go to 21.  

This new push got started after researchers at the University of Hawaii reported that 30 per cent of 14- to 16-year-olds had experimented with e-cigarettes.  The concern is that this would then encourage them to consider smoking conventional cigarettes. 

Opponents to the law have the following logic summed up by Democratic Representative Angus McKelvey, "I can't stand cigarette smoking. It’s disgusting, but to tell somebody you can go and fight for your country and get killed but you can't have a cigarette, that’s the thing. You can enter a contract. You're an emancipated adult in the eyes of the constitution, but you can't have a cigarette anymore."

And now for my 2 cents on this well intentioned law...  It's all stupid.  10 bucks is the fine for a first offence?  That's less than a pack of cigarettes in NYC!  And the average cost of a pack of cigarettes in Hawaii is...  wait for it...  $9.55.  So I get busted once it costs me a pack.  Twice, a carton and guess what?  I'm still smoking!  That's right.  I started smoking full time when I was 17.  My friends bought me cigarettes.  It was the easiest thing to get.  If you really want to have an impact, first offence needs to be volunteering in a cancer treatment center and education on the real effects of smoking.  When I was a teenager I felt immortal and also felt cancer just didn't apply to me.  You think a $10 fine is going to dissuade someone from smoking?  Cmon...  maaaaaaan!  Wake up.  

Also, allow me to comment on McKelvey's missed mark.  I'd be curious to see if Angus supports lowering the legal age of drinking to 18...  

BOTTOM LINE:  Free society, free market, free economy.  Raising the legal age to 21 one may have an impact.  Then again, it may also do about jack squat.  A committed smoker, is going to find a way.  Period.  A committed smoker had made a decision.  You want to help these kids make an educated decision and become fully aware of the effects of smoking...  At any age!