State Senate committee passes vaping bill

  • A customer blows a cloud of smoke from a vape pipe at a local shop in Richmond, Va. on Jan. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The state Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday unanimously advanced a bill banning flavored tobacco products.

House Bill 2457, known as the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2020, would prohibit the sale or distribution of all flavored tobacco products in the state.

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In 2009, the federal Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibited flavors, including fruit and candy flavoring in cigarettes, but not for other smoking devices.

The 2020 state Legislature is hoping to change that.

The bill states that while there has been a decline in the use of cigarettes during the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of electronic smoking devices by Hawaii’s youth. In 2017, 27% of middle school students and 42% of public high school students tried electronic smoking devices.

A 2016 report by the Surgeon General states “because the adolescent brain is still developing, nicotine use during adolescence can disrupt the formation of brain circuits that control attention, learning and susceptibility to addiction.”

Following more than 1,000 reported cases of lung injury and 18 confirmed deaths associated with vaping nationwide in 2019, the state Department of Health issued a health advisory urging everyone to stop vaping.

The Legislature concluded “Hawaii should take steps to regulate flavored tobacco products to reduce tobacco related health disparities and address the youth vaping epidemic.”

If passed, the bill will make it unlawful for any retailer to sell or possess with intent to sell a flavored tobacco product, mislabel any e-liquid product as nicotine free if that product contains nicotine and market or promote any electronic smoking device in a manner designed to appeal to individuals younger than 21 years old.

The bill also prohibits labeling saying that a product has a flavor. Any flavored product found in a retailer’s possession shall be seized and considered contraband.

A first offense would result in a $500 fine. Subsequent offenses would result in a fine between $500 and $2,000. Each flavored product would be considered a separate violation.

Any person younger than 21 in possession of prohibited materials will be fined $10 for the first offense, must complete a tobacco education or cessation program and also perform three hours community service. For subsequent violations the fine increases to $50 and the amount of community service increases to between 48 and 72 hours.

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If passed and signed into law by Gov. David Ige, the measure would become effective Sept. 1.

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.

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