Hawaii Lawmakers Push For Harsher Vape Restrictions

The pressure to enact a flavour ban is on, as teachers and health advocates say that nicotine addiction from vapes is disrupting classrooms, and has caused a crises among middle and high school students.

A ban on flavoured vaping products was passed last year but later vetoed because of flaws in the way the measure was written. The ban, was to take effect at the beginning of 2023 and would have banned the sale of flavoured vaping products, menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigars.

Harm reduction experts and vape shop owners keep pointing out that such a ban will only lead to an expanding black market of the products, and data from regions where such bans were imposed support this claim. However educators and parents keep pressuring lawmakers to enact such a ban.

Similarly, Rep. Scot Matayoshi has recently presented a 70% tax proposed under House Bill 537 would bring the tax of vapes to be at par with that on cigarettes. “Nicotine is about as addictive as heroin, but we are selling (nicotine) over the counter, and (it) has many negative health effects that we, as a society, will have to deal with down the line,” he said.

Data indicating that such measures are not effective
Meanwhile, in line with previous findings, a new paper published in the Journal of Health Economics suggests says that setting harsh vape taxes on vaping products just leads to an increase in cigarette sales.

Both bills, (HB 537) and (HB 551) are now before Hawaii’s lawmakers. “The House Finance Committee is expected to approve the two bills Wednesday and send them to the full House, which is expected to move them to the Senate,” reports Hawaii News Now.

Meanwhile, a 2020 testimony at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Illegal Tobacco Task Force discussed data on how vapers were responding to such bans. Non-surprisingly the task force concluded that the flavour ban implemented locally, would lead to “an increase in smuggling activity and black-market sales.”

“I’m concerned that placing an added burden and tasking law enforcement with the enforcement of flavor bans will only stand to create a significant new black market, this includes both cross-state border smuggling and counterfeit tobacco,” said Charles Giblin, a retired special agent in charge of the New Jersey treasury’s office of criminal investigation.