Bill That Would Ban Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products Advances

February 14, 2020, 3:19 PM HST (Updated February 14, 2020, 3:19 PM)
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A bill that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, except menthol, has advanced to the House Finance Committee.

House Bill 2347 was presented in a joint committee meeting with the Consumer Protection and Commerce and Judiciary on Wednesday. It passed both committees with no amendments and is set to go before the House Finance Committee for approval.

Several people testified during the CPC Committee. Organizations provided testimony expressing support and that the bill be modified to include the banning of menthol flavor.

“We don’t want to create loop holes and push kids toward a new addiction,” said Donald B. Weisman, American Heart Association’s Hawai‘i Government Relations and Mission: Lifeline Director.

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There were several submitted testimonies individuals that supported or opposed the measure.

Lynne Matusow supported the measure as an individual. In her submitted testimony to lawmakers, she asked that they add menthol back into the bill.

“These vaping products, especially menthol and the other flavors, are a menace to public health,” Matusow stated. “Every day there are people smoking/vaping billowing clouds on the street corners, endangering those of us who value our right to breathe and have healthy lungs. It is we the people who matter, not the vaping/smoking companies. Please save our children and the rest of us.”

Dillon Rellez also submitted written testimony against the bill.

“I oppose this bill because e-cigarettes are proven to help people get off of bad habits and live a more healthy life,” Rellez wrote. “I quit smoking because of fruity e-cigarettes flavors and I don’t feel I should be penalized for taking charge for health in my life.”

Businesses also submitted testimony in opposition of the measure. Irie Hawai‘i Stores has several smoke shops on the Big Island. They provided testimony against the bill stating the measure infringes on the freedom of adults, adding vaping/smoking is an adult activity.

Additionally, Irie Hawai‘i, states the bill would take the livelihood away from hundreds of people in Hawaii that are employed by vape shops.

“The vape shops in Hawai‘i are mom and pop stores not owned by big tobacco,” the testimony states.

Irie Hawai‘i suggests the state punish underage people for using vape items. “Do not punish adults and businesses for the actions of teens.”

Irie Hawai‘i’s testimony also included clarification of vaping injuries reported in 2019. Research showed respiratory illnesses found across the nation among youth were linked to illegal THC vape cartridges containing Vitamins E Acetate.

Rep. Nicole Lowen, member of the Judiciary Committee, said she would support the banning of menthols for e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes.

The bill impacts all businesses selling flavored liquid e-cigarettes. Lowen, who represents, Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa and Honokohau, thinks the ban is necessary to protect children.

“When companies are making cotton candy flavored e-cigarettes, to say you aren’t targeting juveniles is disingenuous.”

Lowen hopes the bill passes. While it failed last year, Lowen thinks enough things have happened in the past year with new research on its harmful affects to pass it.

The Hawai‘i Department of Education didn’t provide any public testimony for this bill. However, they are supportive of House Bill 2457, which covers penalties for teens underage found in possession of electronic smoking devices (ESD) and the creation of a safe harbor program that allows a person under 21 to dispose of an electronic smoking device without penalty.

“The Department has a zero-tolerance policy for tobacco products and electronic smoking devices on all our campuses,” DOE officials stated. “The Department has not submitted testimony related to HB2347 as the bill pertains to the sales of flavored tobacco products, which does not directly impact existing policies.”

There are other bills related to e-liquids and ESDs being reviewed by legislators. A measure has also been introduced to change the legal smoking age from 21 to 25.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.
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