A coalition of state lawmakers and community health organizations are pushing to outlaw flavored tobacco products in Hawai’i.
The State Capitol lawn is decorated with art and the words, “Candy Flavored Tobacco Hooks Kids.” The Hawai’i Public Health Institute is sponsoring legislation to ban all flavored e-cigarette products currently popular among teens who vape. Dr. Kazuma Nakagawa is director of the Queens Stroke Center.
“E-Cigarette is considered almost a gateway method for the youngsters to get into nicotine use and a lot of them end up using traditional cigarette smoking after using e-cigarettes. So this is very alarming.”
National and Local Risk Behavior Surveys indicate that 8 in 10 youth who currently use tobacco started with a flavored product. Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, an emergency room doctor, supports the proposed legislation.
“I’m a doctor. I see a lot of young people with emphysema. I’ve seen a lot of younger people with lung cancers and it’s because we have these rates of addiction to nicotine and it starts with these terrible flavored tobaccos and that’s gotta end.”
Senator Karl Rhoads, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, says stopping teens from getting addicted to nicotine and eventually progressing to smoking cigarettes is the goal.
“Right now it’s about 460 thousand people a year in the United States die from cigarette smoke. That’s more than all the Americans who died during World War Two. The entire war. That happens every year.”
Senator Rosalyn Baker chairs the Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee. She says tobacco products in Hawai’i can only be sold to those 21 years of age or older.
“Even cigarettes that come in have to have a permit. So, we believe that we can just replicate what is already existing for tobacco for e-cigarettes. So, we wanna make sure that they’re not coming into our schools and anyplace that sells them has to card, because it’s only 21.”
Agnes Brown is a senior at Sacred Hearts Academy. She says an effort must be made to stop flavored tobaccos at the source.
“It’s really easy to obtain it off of the internet. A lot of online sources don’t check age and illegally, comes from lot of people who are of age can sell it to people who are underage, so it’s not known.”
The Bill to Ban Flavored Tobacco will be heard February 13 by the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee. Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.