The Hawaii state legislature adjourned this year without taking much action to reduce teen vaping, but members of the U.S. Congress are now pursuing tobacco legislation at the federal level.
37 percent of 12th graders nationwide tried vaping in the past year according to the National Institutes of Health.
While the use of conventional tobacco products has been declining, rates of vaping and e-cigarette use have been rising rapidly in recent years, especially amongst teens. Hawaii has some of the highest rates of teen vaping in the country.
That spurred health advocates to push for additional restrictions on the vaping products. Jessica Yamauchi, Executive Director of the Hawaii Public Health Institute, was pursuing two initiatives related to tobacco use this year.
“One was a regulation bill that was going to establish a tax on e-cigarette and to restrict online shipping of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. The other bill was going to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products.”
None of those regulatory proposals saw any success at the state legislature. Instead lawmakers increased the fine for underage possession to 100 dollars and permitted public schools to confiscate vaping devices.
Attention has now turned to the U.S. Congress, where Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz is taking up the issue. Senator Schatz wants to raise the legal smoking age to 21 nationwide, something that has already been done in 13 states, including Hawaii.
“According to the National Assembly would save more than 20,000 our bill is clean it is simple is free of loopholes and it is bipartisan,” said Schatz at press conference.”
The bipartisan support comes from Republic Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Todd Young of Indiana. Illinois Democrat Dick Durban also co-sponsored the bill.
He says raising the smoking age is a good first step, but also wants to crackdown on flavors perceived as targeting kids.
“The flavors include fruit medley, gummy bears, cotton candy, fruity Hoops, marshmallow, Mom's custard, and s'mores Galore. Does that sound like something designed for children or adults? I think it's clear,” Durbin said alongside his co-sponsors.
If the Tobacco to 21 Act does pass the U.S. Senate, it would be an increasingly rare instance of bipartisan cooperation for a Congress that has found little common ground between Republicans and Democrats.