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Hawaii raises cigarette smoking age to 21


An immense amount of controversy exists over the synergistic effects of alcohol and cigarettes. Many people enjoy smoking a cigarette while drinking, even if they are not routine smokers and, interestingly enough, many alcohol and drug rehab programs allow their patients to continue to smoke cigarettes, despite the health risks.

According to studies performed at Brown University and Baylor College of Medicine that were published in July 2013 in the journal Neuron, researchers discovered that alcohol consumption increases dopamine levels in the brain’s reward centers, which results in euphoric feelings. These researchers also found that the pleasure center in the brain develops a tolerance to alcohol, dampening the effects of euphoria over time, resulting in the need for more and more alcohol to cause the same level of pleasure. Nicotine consumption works synergistically to increase this effect, meaning that people who smoke cigarettes need more alcohol to achieve the same levels of enjoyment. Tobacco’s main addictive ingredient appears to prompt the desire to drink more alcohol, according to the study’s authors. The study sheds light on the reason why alcoholism is roughly 10 times more prevalent in smokers than in nonsmokers, and possibly why taking up smoking at an early age is a significant risk factor for subsequent alcohol abuse at a later age.

Laws aim to curb nicotine addiction

Cigarette smoking, like alcohol abuse, has many adverse health side effects and can be lethal. Lung cancer, throat cancer, bladder cancer and oral cancer are common carcinomas that are directly caused by cigarettes. Tobacco has detrimental effects on skin, teeth, hair and the overall aging process. It may be beneficial to counsel patients who are in alcohol and drug treatment centers to stop smoking cigarettes as well.

Hawaii’s progressive law aims to cut down on nicotine addiction: In June 2015, the governor of Hawaii signed a bill that will take effect January 2016, increasing the statewide legal smoking age to 21. Hawaii is the first state nationwide to raise the smoking age to 21. “Raising the minimum age as part of our comprehensive tobacco control efforts will help reduce tobacco use among our youth and increase the likelihood that our keiki (children) will grow up to be tobacco-free,” Governor David Ige said in a statement.

Although Hawaii County, which consists of Hawaii’s Big Island, New York City and several other communities have already passed legislation to raise the smoking age to 21, Hawaii is the first state to do so. In addition, lawmakers in other states such as California and Washington have aggressively pushed to increase the legal smoking age to 21.

Public supports raising the smoking age

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, tobacco kills more than 480,000 people in the U.S. and almost 6 million people worldwide, and the vast majority of those began smoking when they were children.

“Age-of-sale restrictions have been shown to contribute to reductions in tobacco use and dependency among youth,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Three out of 4 American adults — including 7 in 10 cigarette smokers — favor raising the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21,” according to a CDC article, “Attitudes Toward Raising the Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Among U.S. Adults,” which was published in a July 2015 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

A better way to become sober

Replacing one bad habit with another might not be the key to becoming sober. Alcohol and tobacco both carry significant health risks and can cause financial burdens to many who are addicted to these substances. Depending on the state, cigarettes may range from $7 to $12 a pack, about the same as minimum wage. However, the cost of cigarettes has an even higher financial impact when it affects a patient’s health. Smoking is an inadequate replacement for alcohol.

If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol and may need assistance in alcohol cessation, Sovereign Health Group offers many different types of alcohol treatment centers around the country. For more information, call 855-683-9756.

Written by Kristen Fuller, M.D., Sovereign Health Group staff writer

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