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Tobacco Bans and Marijuana Bans

Hawaii state representative Richard Creagan is on a mission. Actually, he is on a crusade. He wants to effectively ban the smoking of cigarettes. Hawaii is already one of six states (California, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon being the others) where the minimum age to purchase cigarettes has already been raised to 21. But age 21 is not high enough for the Hawaii lawmaker.

Creagan has introduced a bill (HB1509) to raise the minimum age at which Hawaiians can buy cigarettes to age 100. The bill has got to be read to be believed. Here are some excerpts:

The legislature finds that 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 legislature also finds that smoking has killed one hundred million people in the twentieth century and is likely to kill one billion people in the twenty-first century.

In Hawaii, cigarettes have caused more preventable disease, death, and disability than any other health issue, each year claiming the lives of more than one thousand four hundred adults and contributing to more than twenty thousand premature deaths of minors.

So, in view of the above:

  • Effective January 1, 2020, it shall be unlawful to sell or furnish cigarettes to a person under thirty years of age;
  • Effective July 1, 2021, it shall be unlawful to sell or furnish cigarettes to a person under forty years of age;
  • Effective July 1, 2022, it shall be unlawful to sell or furnish cigarettes to a person under fifty years of age;
  • Effective July 1, 2023, it shall be unlawful to sell or furnish cigarettes to a person under sixty years of age; and
  • Effective July 1, 2024, it shall be unlawful to sell or furnish cigarettes to a person under one hundred years of age;

The bill would not apply to electronic smoking devices, cigars, or chewing tobacco.

“The state is obliged to protect the public’s health,” said Creagan. Cigarette smoking is “more lethal, more dangerous than any prescription drug, and it is more addicting.” By effectively banning the smoking of cigarettes, the government would not be overreaching, it would just be “taking people who are enslaved from a horrific addiction, and freeing people from horrific enslavement.” Legislators “have a duty to do things to save people’s lives.” If they “don’t ban cigarettes,” then they are “killing people.”

Only the most diehard opponents of tobacco would think that Creagan’s bill was anything but ludicrous. But not because smoking cigarettes is not dangerous, destructive, and deadly. According to the CDC:

  • Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined: HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, firearm-related incidents.
  • More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.
  • Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.

Although smoking is dangerous, destructive, and deadly, most Americans—even if they support government bans on smoking in bars and restaurants—would still say that people should be allowed to smoke in the privacy of their home as long as they accept the health risks.

But not so with marijuana.

Even though smoking marijuana is nowhere near as harmful as smoking tobacco, even though marijuana is effective in the treatment of some medical conditions, and even though—according to the federal government’s own Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration—smoking marijuana never killed anyone, the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801)

As a Schedule I drug, marijuana is said to have “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.” The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government has the authority to prohibit marijuana possession and use for any and all purposes.

Under federal law, “possession of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction.”  Subsequent convictions have higher penalties. You can get life in prison for manufacturing or distributing 1,000 plants or kilograms of marijuana and the death penalty for “manufacturing, importing or distributing a controlled substance if the act was committed as part of a continuing criminal enterprise.”

At least with the proposed bill in Hawaii, it is only the sale of cigarettes to anyone under a hundred years old that will be prohibited. There is nothing in the bill that criminalizes the smoking of cigarettes. But the federal government prohibits the buying, selling, growing, smoking, and possession of marijuana.

Marijuana prohibitionists who support the federal government’s crusade against marijuana are colossal hypocrites if they don’t likewise call for the prohibition of cigarettes. To say that a tobacco ban is bad but that a marijuana ban is good is not just the height of hypocrisy, it is akin to the ravings of a mad man.

Even Rep. Creagan, who is a physician, supports the legalization of marijuana because he believes that it’s not as addictive or as dangerous to a person’s health as tobacco.

Cigarette smoking may be “an unreasonably dangerous and defective product, killing half of its long-term users.” But in a free society, it is up to individuals to decide whether they still want to smoke cigarettes. Similarly, marijuana smoking may be immoral, it may be sinful, it may be unhealthy, it may be addictive, it may be medically useless, and it may be risky. But in a free society, it is up to individuals to decide whether they still want to smoke marijuana.

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