Hawaii’s Legal Smoking Age May Increase to 100. Why We All Should Care



By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


Some legislators in Hawaii are proposing that the legal age for smoking cigarettes in the state should be increased to 100. And they are hoping to achieve this by the year 2024.

You might recall that Hawaii was the first state in the nation to make purchasing tobacco products illegal for people under the age of 21 (as opposed to making the legal age 18). Other states that now have this same law are California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon and Main. There are also hundreds of localities that have followed suit, including Chicago, New York City, San Antonio and more.

According to one news report, the bill in Hawaii “...aims to raise the legal minimum age to purchase or possess cigarettes to 30 by next year, 40 by 2021, 50 by 2022, 60 by 2023 and 100 by 2024. The timetable would allow the state to plan for a loss in cigarette tax revenue…”

When you take a look at statistics which show how damaging smoking cigarettes is to our health, Hawaii’s timetable really makes sense.

For example, let’s look at some statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.
  • For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.
  • Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  • Smoking increases the risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Smoking is a known cause of erectile dysfunction in males.

On top of this, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. According to the American Cancer Society, “Smoking accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States, including about 80% of all lung cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, and is one of the hardest cancers to treat.”

Aside from life-threatening diseases, smoking cigarettes may cause severe nutritional deficiencies.

“Smoking has been shown to lower the level of vitamin C and B-carotene in plasma. Cadmium, naturally found in tobacco, decreases the bioavailability of selenium and acts antagonistically to zinc, a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Vitamin E, the principle lipid-soluble antioxidant, may be at suboptimal levels in tissues of smokers,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

All of these vitamins and minerals mentioned above are important for immune function, heart health, skin health and more.

One study found evidence that vitamin A depletion induced by cigarette smoke may lead to the development of emphysema.

“In addition, tobacco constituents have been shown to reduce levels of several vitamins of the B-complex. Nutritional status in smokers may be further compromised by an inadequate diet [smokers are less likely to eat fruits and vegetables],” says the NIH.

(To learn more about key nutrients smoking may rob you of and how you can actually be proactive about quitting smoking, read here).

The problem with the bill being proposed in Hawaii is that it does not apply to cigars, chewing tobacco or e-cigarettes. Smoking with e-cigarettes, also called ‘vaping’ or ‘juuling,’ is especially popular among young people.

“Although e-cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, vaping rates have skyrocketed in recent years, especially among teens. E-cigarettes are now the most frequently used tobacco product among adolescents — some 2.1 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users in 2017 — far surpassing traditional combustible cigarettes,” reports the Child Mind Institute.

These smoking devices do not appear to be any more safe than smoking a regular cigarette. The CDC reports that most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development. E-cigarettes may also contain other harmful substances in addition to nicotine, and children who vape are more likely to smoke as adults.

E-cigarettes are also very easy to keep discrete because they often just look like flash drives and do not smell as strong as cigarettes.

“JUUL, a popular vape device that comes in fun flavors, looks like a flash drive and can be charged in a USB port, is especially concerning. JUUL delivers high levels of nicotine, making the product extremely addictive. The company that makes and markets JUUL recently exceeded a $10 billion valuation faster than any company, including Facebook. JUUL sales now make up more than half of the e-cigarette market,” says the Child Mind Institute.

How can we be proactive, especially with our children?

No matter what the smoking laws may be, you have to be proactive. Smoking causes many preventable diseases. So if you are currently a smoker, really think about whether doing this is worth the sacrifice of your own health and speak with a competent professional to identify ways to quit.

And if you have children, talk to them about the dangers of smoking and vaping. These conversations can be uncomfortable, and your child may be reluctant to talk to you about it. But in the end, communication and education on these health issues that affect so many of us are key.

According to Stanford Children’s Health, it is recommended to talk to your kids about smoking as early as age five and continue having these conversations through high school. You can check out some of Stanford’s additional tips and tricks, here.

I think it’s also very important to note that one of the reasons smoking and vaping may be appealing to kids is because “[s]moking reduces stress. Many teens find this an especially appealing factor during the stressful adolescent years. Studies show that nicotine not only reduces stress, but also eases pain and increases mental alertness,” reports Stanford.

But there are other healthy ways to reduce stress. Some of these include making sure your child is educated about eating healthily, getting adequate exercise and getting quality sleep. These healthy lifestyle habits may make those stressful adolescent years less stressful.

Routine nutrient tests are also recommended for everyone. Finding out whether we have any nutrient imbalances, (such as too much or too little of a certain vitamin or mineral), and then working with a competent healthcare professional to fix any imbalances can help us all feel our best. It will also reduce the likelihood of turning to destructive coping methods such as smoking.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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