Hawaii Is Considering Banning the Sale of Cigarettes Entirely

iStock.com/lightfiction
iStock.com/lightfiction

Hawaiians who smoke may want to stock up on their favorite brand of cigarettes—or consider quitting cold turkey. A lawmaker from the state of Hawaii's Big Island has proposed age restrictions that would essentially ban the sale of cigarettes by 2024.

According to the Associated Press, Democratic state Representative Richard Creagan wants to increase the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 30 in 2020. The age would increase incrementally to 40 in 2021, 50 in 2022, 60 in 2023, and 100 in 2024. So unless the state has a large contingent of smoking centenarians, it seems unlikely that stores would continue to carry packs of Camels or Marlboro Lights.

However, the ban wouldn't cover all tobacco products. Cigars, chewing tobacco, and e-cigarette products (many of which contain nicotine) would remain exempt and therefore available.

If passed, Hawaii would be the first state to ban the sale of cigarettes in recent history. The state already has some of the country's strictest cigarette laws, including comparatively high tax rates ($3.20 in taxes per pack) and a minimum smoking age of 21 [PDF]. Creagan, who is also a physician and former smoker, says these measures aren't enough to deter smokers, though. "It's slowing it down, but it's not stopping the problem," he told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

He said the measure is ultimately designed to protect the health of Hawaii's residents. "We, as legislators, have a duty to do things to save people's lives. If we don't ban cigarettes, we are killing people," he said. The state's House Health Committee is expected to hear the bill this week.

Although this marks a shift in the national discussion surrounding cigarettes, the measure has historic precedent. Fifteen states banned the sale of cigarettes from 1890 to 1927, partially overlapping with Prohibition (from 1920 to 1933). The cigarette ban was deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court, but industry pressure and the appeal of tax revenue put an end to those bans.

[h/t KCTV News]

10 Facts About High Blood Pressure

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iStock.com/stockvisual

People with high blood pressure (hypertension) are at a greater risk for a host of medical issues, including heart failure and stroke. Despite the severe health threats it poses, high blood pressure often goes unnoticed or untreated by some who have it. From high blood pressure symptoms to what levels are considered normal, here are some facts about the condition.

1. High blood pressure symptoms are sometimes unnoticeable.

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force of blood moving through the circulatory system. High blood pressure, a condition in which blood is putting too much force on arteries and organs, is often called the “silent killer.” It contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, but only half of high blood pressure patients know they have it. In most cases, hypertension signs are difficult to detect, making it hard to diagnose and keep under control. Chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations are some of the most common hypertension signs in people who do show symptoms.

2. Anxiety causes some of the same symptoms as high blood pressure.

When it comes to managing high blood pressure symptoms, mental health is as important as physical health. Anxiety can lead to sudden spikes in blood pressure, and spikes that occur often enough can inflict serious damage on the heart and blood vessels the same way chronic high blood pressures does. Stress and anxiety also make people vulnerable to the top risk factors associated with chronic hypertension, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating.

3. A normal blood pressure range is lower than it used to be.

If you haven’t had your blood pressure measured in a couple years, it’s time for a check-up: In November 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association updated its normal blood pressure guidelines. The two components that make up blood pressure are systolic pressure—the pressure in blood vessels, represented by the top number in test results—and diastolic pressure, the pressure in the heart between beats represented by the bottom number. According to the old guidelines, the threshold for normal blood pressure was 140 systolic pressure and 90 diastolic pressure, or 140/90. The new guidelines lowered that marker to 130/80. Now that the normal blood pressure range has dropped, 14 percent more people could diagnosed with hypertension in the U.S.

4. "White-coat hypertension" is real.

Not every patient who exhibits hypertension signs in the doctor’s office has high blood pressure. “White-coat hypertension” occurs when patients get nervous in a medical setting, leading to a spike in blood pressure that doesn’t necessarily reflect their true health. But this type of hypertension should be taken seriously, even if it is a product of nerves. According to one study, people with white-coat hypertension have a greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease than those with normal blood pressure levels. This may be because people with white-coat hypertension are more prone to anxiety.

5. People with high blood pressure should consume less than one teaspoon of salt per day.

One of the worst things to eat if you have hypertension is food that’s high in salt. Sodium, which makes up 40 percent of table salt (sodium chloride), promotes water retention in the body. More water means more blood volume, which puts added pressure on the heart and blood vessels. Medical experts recommend consuming no more than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day, or just over 1 teaspoon of salt. If you have high blood pressure, the American Heart Association recommends an ideal limit at 1500 milligrams of sodium a day—equal to three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt.

6. Almost half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure ...

According to the American Heart Association, more than 100 million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure—that’s nearly half of American adults. The condition is so common that even if you don’t have it now, chances are you will develop it at some point in your life. The lifetime risk in the U.S. for hypertension in 90 percent.

7. ... and black Americans are most affected.

High blood pressure affects certain groups disproportionately. Black Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure than any other group in the country, and when they develop it, it’s usually more severe. Hypertension also affects black Americans earlier in life: Three in four black people in the U.S. will develop the condition by age 55. Health experts believe that the prevalence of high blood pressure is associated with the higher rates of obesity and diabetes among the black population.

8. A female hormone may protect against high blood pressure.

High blood pressure rates are pretty similar among men and women before middle age. But once women hit menopause, their chances of developing hypertension increase: 75 percent of postmenopausal in the U.S. have high blood pressure. This may have to do something with decreased levels of estrogen—a hormone that’s been shown to boost premenopausal women’s vascular health.

9. High blood pressure can be life-threatening ...

High blood pressure doesn’t kill people directly, but it can lead to some deadly complications. Hypertension adds potentially fatal stress to vital organs like the heart, kidneys, and brain. When you have high blood pressure, your risk of heart attack, stroke, chronic heart failure, kidney disease, and even blindness all significantly go up.

10. ... but improved with medications and healthy living.

The best way to reduce your blood pressure is to change your lifestyle. Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and eating too much salty food all increase your risk of developing hypertension, and doctors recommend avoiding these risk factors to keep blood pressure levels under control. Regular exercise and certain medications, like diuretics (to get rid of excess water in the body) and ACE inhibitors (which block an enzyme that tightens blood vessels), can also lower blood pressure.

A Simple Hack for Recycling Your Contact Lens Blister Packs

Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker, Flickr (Cropped) // CC BY 2.0 
Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker, Flickr (Cropped) // CC BY 2.0 

As convenient as monthly and daily-use contact lenses can be for those who aren't blessed with 20/20 vision, they can also be harmful to the environment and contribute to microplastic pollution when they’re flushed down the drain.

The good news is that the blister packs your contact lenses come in can be recycled in a way that requires very little time and effort. If you're a contact lens wearer and want to do your part to reduce plastic waste, there’s a simple solution: Just place the empty blister packs inside a plastic bottle and drop it into the plastic recycling bin once it’s full. (Just make sure you're discarding the foil covering the blister pack first.)

Of course, it’s always better to use as few plastic bottles as possible, so only do this if you were already using those bottles anyway. If your household is fairly anti-plastic, there’s another option. Contact lens manufacturer Bausch + Lomb offers its own recycling program, called One by One. The company collaborated with TerraCycle to reduce waste by recycling all parts of the product, including the used blister pack, top foil, and contact lenses themselves. The company accepts all brands of contact lens products and estimates that it has recycled more than 25,000 pounds of packaging to date.

“Once received, the contact lenses and blister packs are separated and cleaned,” Bausch + Lomb explains on its website. “The metal layers of the blister packs are recycled separately, while the contact lenses and plastic blister pack components are melted into plastic that can be remolded to make recycled products.”

The reason why so many plastic blister packs end up in landfills is because the pieces are too small to be sorted properly at recycling plants. It’s the same problem that affects plastic bottle caps, which is why it’s recommended to leave the caps on, as long as your recycling program allows it.

Optometry offices across the country are participating in Bausch + Lomb's recycling program, and you can visit the company’s website to find out if there are any drop-off points near you. If it's more convenient, you can also place the items in a cardboard box and mail them in, using a free shipping label that’s available online.

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