Hawaii's dangerous idea: Allowing people to smoke is equivalent to killing them
by Erin Dunne, Washington Examiner, February 04, 2019
In Hawaii, a newly proposed law wants a radical change: by 2024, raise the legal age to purchase cigarettes to 100. The bill which, if passed, would amount to a ban on smoking might seem like a clever and simple solution. But the logic behind the proposal is that only those above the arbitrary age limit are capable of making their own choices.
Smoking, especially in private, is a self-affecting action, much like eating too much sugar, having a couple beers every day, or not exercising.
And although those choices have bad consequences, the most basic understanding of freedom argues against the government stepping in to dictate to adults what is an acceptable vice and what is not.
This Hawaii tobacco law has even more perverse reasoning, equating tolerance of vice to murder:
Although the deaths caused by cigarettes may not legally constitute murders, the legislature believes that the State’s lack of action to prevent these deaths by banning the sale of cigarettes could, and perhaps should, be considered the moral equivalent to murder, or at the very least, of being an accessory to murder.
This way of thinking could justify government intervention in nearly all aspects of a person's life.
That being said, lawmakers aren’t wrong to want to help people suffering from addiction to smoking cigarettes. And, to that end, Hawaii has gone to great lengths to discourage adult use and prevent young people from starting.
In 2016, Hawaii became the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21. The state also significantly taxes tobacco products and actively works to educate citizens on the dangers of smoking.
Those are all great steps and well within the purview of lawmakers without significantly limiting choice.
By contrast, the new bill, introduced by Hawaii state House Democrat Rep. Richard Creagan, wouldn’t ban cigarette sales immediately, but instead incrementally raise the minimum age. In 2020, it would set at 30, in 2021 at 40, and, by 2024, the age would be 100.
Within five years Hawaii would have a state-wide prohibition on cigarette sales.
Lawmakers are right to work to curb tobacco use, but it's dangerous to equate tolerating vices with murder. Prohibition doesn’t work and limits the choices of adults — or, at least under the proposed bill, those under 100.