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Hawaii Senate Health Chair Plans Bills Targeting Youth Vaping

Mike Mozart / Flickr
Mike Mozart / Flickr

Updated 1/2 9:04 pm

Hawaii Senate Health Chair Rosalyn Baker plans to propose several bills in the coming legislative ssession aimed at reducing youth vaping, but she wants to add e-cigarettes and vaping products to existing tobacco laws.

"Probably the first thing we need to do is require that e-liquid and electronic smoking devices be included within the definition of tobacco products," said Baker. "Because that brings in the cigarette tax and tobacco tax law, and [that] means we don't have to have retailers dealing with a bunch of different laws."

"It'll be uniform for anything that has been deemed a tobacco product," she said.

Baker also plans to propose a ban on all flavored e-liquid products, including menthol. That would appear to be more restrictive than proposed by the Trump administration.

Federal officials plan to ban most flavored e-cigarettes used by teens, but will carve out exceptions such as menthol and tobacco flavors that benefit vaping manufacturers, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Hawaii lawmakers and health officials have been discussing ways to reduce vaping, especially among youth. The state Department of Health said Hawaii has the highest vaping rates among high school and middle school students in the country.

Last October, Lola Irvin with the Department of Health outlined several options for lawmakers to address vaping by youth, including imposing taxes on e-cigarette products.

"Adding additional tax is an effective policy. We have seen that," she said as they make the products expensive for price-sensitive youth. Banning flavored products and stopping online shipments would also discourage vaping by youth, she suggested. 

Meanwhile, the American Lung Association says if you want to quit smoking as a New Year’s resolution, don’t switch to vaping. 

The group said some people believe that vaping is not smoking or that it’s a way to help them quit, but they have been misinformed. E-cigarettes are tobacco product, and none are safe, the group said, citing the recent injuries and deaths attributed to vaping.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 2,500 cases of people hospitalized due to lung injuries from e-cigarette or vaping have been reported and 55 deaths were confirmed as of Dec. 27.

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