Positive change seen in Hawaii, New Orleans smoking policy

Hawaii’s new proposed bill to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 has cleared the legislature and now rests on Governor David Ige to sign into law, and would make Hawaii the first state to pass this measure. (Fried Dough/Flickr)

What do Hawaii and New Orleans have in common besides being part of the same country? In the last week, they have both seen bills regarding smoking moving through the legislature and one even being signed into law.

Hawaii’s new proposed bill to raise the smoking age – not purchasing age – from 18 to 21 has cleared the legislature and now rests on Governor David Ige to sign into law. This would make Hawaii the first state to pass this measure, which is a truly commendable move on their part.

A first time violation for getting caught smoking underage is 10 dollars; every subsequent fine is raised 50 dollars and includes mandatory community service. I believe that the smoking underage fine should be steeper. Connecticut’s laws on minors possessing liquor in a public space, buying liquor and attempting to buy liquor have fines from 200 to 500 dollars. Anyone with a fake I.D. can face up to 30 days in prison.

Now, should we differentiate between minors caught with tobacco products or alcohol? Both are wildly detrimental to one’s health as well as the health of those around them. Someone drinking and driving can harm a person’s life instantly. We see a consequence of their action in the immediate future as opposed to those who smoke around others. The second hand smoke inhaled won’t reveal its toll on their health until years later.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, a city with bars that never close, a law went into effect on the stroke of midnight on Wednesday. Throughout the city, bartenders and club owners collected the ashtrays and asked their patrons to put their cigarettes and cigars out.

The ban calls for no smoking in “bars, restaurants, casinos or fairgrounds. It is now prohibited in outdoor sporting arenas and stadiums, except during concerts, festivals and parades. There is no smoking allowed within five feet of Lafayette Square.”

Many bars at the stroke of midnight started handing out nicotine gum and patches while Harrah’s Casino offered Tootsie Pops, according to The New Orleans Advocate.

Even the bartenders can’t argue against a bill passed to protect the patrons’ as well as workers’ health. Sure, there are a few attempting to sue for infringement on their God-given right to shave years off their lives, but for the most part, the law has been met with a shrug as most already saw this coming.

There were still heated debates before the law went into effect. Many were worried about the atmosphere changing and the free spirit of the New Orleans being crushed. However, the bill was still unanimously passed.

I believe this says a lot about the public’s opinion on smoking and this is a wonderful example for other big cities that are holding their image in higher standards than public safety.

Times are changing and more people are becoming aware of the consequences of their actions. I truly don’t understand why the tobacco industry still exists and sells products to people in the first place. It’s true that argument can be made for virtually anything as many other products we use and food we eat can contain carcinogens. In terms of alcohol, abuse can often lead to addiction and eventually liver failure. In some cases, it can even cause cancers of throat, mouth, liver, esophagus and colon. However, the difference is that alcohol consumption in moderation allows individuals to avoid any short- and long-term damage.

There are over 4,000 chemicals found in an average cigarette and most of these chemicals’ purpose is to instigate addiction. Basically, there is no safe level of cigarette use. It causes up to 6 million preventable deaths every year. E-cigs are no better even if they don’t have tobacco. It’s not just the tobacco that’s hurting your body but the hundreds of other chemicals that are also found in e-cigs.

To end this rant, I think we should give a round of applause for both Hawaii and New Orleans. Hopefully, we see more of this progressive action in other legislatures.