The Time Is Ripe for Prohibition
Dr. Richard Creegan (D), a Hawaiian state rep and former emergency room physician, is looking to increase the legal age to purchase cigarettes to 100 years old by 2024. A quick perusal of a map reveals Hawaii has no shared borders or neighboring states where residents can still access smokes. There is another name for this law: prohibition. Has Creegan struck at the right time or is he tilting at windmills? There is a precedent. Hawaii was already the first state to raise its smoking age to 21, and as the vaping community is painfully aware, nicotine prohibition is in air in 2019. Hawaii House Bill 1509 would raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes to 30 years of age by January 1, 2020. The age requirement will jump again to age 50 by 2022 and age 60 by 2023. It should be noted that the ban does not include other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes. A refreshing turn of events, and one that seems almost improbable in an age where zombie vaping myths are gathering strength and talk of a teen vaping epidemic dominates the headlines.
The Human Cost of Smoking
It seems unlikely that this bill will pass, but it served as a platform for Creegan to outline his objections to smoking. Section 1 of the bill declares, “The cigarette is considered the deadliest artifact in human history. The cigarette is an unreasonably dangerous and defective product, killing half of its long-term users.” The numbers he uses to bolster this claim are extraordinary. “Smoking has killed one hundred million people in the twentieth century and is likely to kill one billion people in the twenty-first century. As of 2013, smoking has killed about six million people worldwide per year, with hundreds of thousands of these deaths occurring in the United States alone.” His concerns about smoking are not without merit. Dr. Creegan was clearly was moved by the plight of those suffering from smoking related illness. The question is if prohibition is the best approach. There are plenty of examples that suggest that it is not. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) thinks e-cigs are the answer to the smoking scourge. At least Creegan left that option open and did not include them in his bill.
Marginalized Populations Punished By Cigarettes…and Punitive E-Cig Bans
Creegan expressed concern about how cigarettes inflict disproportionate harm on society’s most vulnerable citizens. As outlined in our special report, strict e-cig laws punish marginalized groups as well. If the proposed e-cigarette flavor restrictions in New York City and a bill that would result in vaping prohibition in California pass into law, smokers looking for cigarette alternatives would suffer. A powerful opponent of Big Tobacco, Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller defended the importance of e-cig access for rural Americans. His advocacy is currently the exception rather than the rule.
E-Cigarettes Omitted From Hawaiian Law
It is interesting, refreshing even, that Creegan left e-cigarettes largely out of the conversation. Perhaps he agrees with the UK’s NHS and Public Health England, which have determined vaping is 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes and that e-cigs can prevent house fire deaths. Dr. Creegan drew up this piece of legislation without the benefit of a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that vaping easily outperformed nicotine replacement as a smoking cessation tool. Such talk is frowned upon by the CDC and the FDA. Instead, they are fixated on the study participants who continued to use e-cigarettes a year after quitting smoking. It would make more sense for the CDC to establish a series best practices for vapers who are looking to taper off of nicotine. Instead, they continue to blindly back nicotine replacement therapy and reject e-cigarettes. The transdermal patch, the most famous nicotine replacement therapy, was invented 34 years ago. The best methods for its use are well-established. Despite this investment, and a huge range of nicotine replacement therapy options, this approach was easily outperformed by a classic 650 mAh cartomizer e-cig. But federal regulators refuse to view e-cigarettes as anything other than a supplement to cigarette smoking.
Perhaps the time is ripe for Dr. Creegan’s anti-cigarette revolution. Smoking rates have fallen to all-time lows. A spike in teen vaping has led to strict new FDA regulations on e-cigs. Threats against the vaping industry by politicians and regulators prove that they not lost their taste for prohibitionist measures. Without a critical mass of smokers fighting this law, Hawaiian politicians will face no repercussions for a cigarette ban. The wealthy had mostly given up smoking by the end of the last century. As we approach the start of a new decade, it seems that they have mostly given up on smokers as well. It is easy to prohibit something if no one you know is impacted.