Hawaii taxing electronic cigarettes, vaping products beginning next year
by Kim Jarrett, The Center Square, June 7, 2023
Hawaii will tax electronic smoking devices and vaping liquids the same way as tobacco products beginning in January 2024.
Senate Bill 975 also bars the unlawful shipment of tobacco products into the Aloha state. The provision is designed to keep people under 21 from ordering e-cigarettes and other products online.
"The explosion of youth vaping over the last 10 years has caused a health crisis in our schools and communities," said Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, D-Kailua-Kaneohe. "Senate Bill 975 takes aim at the youth vaping epidemic by concentrating enforcement on the unregulated local and online vape market. This bill will reduce access and availability of electronic smoking devices to children and teens and stem the tide of vaping addiction overwhelming our schools."
Health officials cited the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the bill's testimony that said more than 30% of high school students had tried e-cigarettes and nearly 18% of middle school students had as well.
"This new law is going to improve the health of our young people and will prevent damaging addiction to nicotine for many, many of our keiki," said Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, who signed SB 975 into law Tuesday. "That said, I know we all have more work to do in addressing vaping in our society, especially in our youth culture. I know that the Health Department and my former colleagues in the Senate and House are going to stay focused on this as part of their ongoing efforts for the health and safety of the people of Hawaii."
As of December 2022, just 30 states had taxes on e-cigarette products, according to the CDC. The excise tax is 70% of the wholesale price of the e-smoking or e-liquid "sold, used, or possessed by a wholesaler or dealer on and after January 1, 2024," according to the bill.
All 50 states ban the sale of e-cigarette products to minors, according to the CDC. Thirty-three states, including Hawaii, require retailers to have a license to sell the products.
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GOV. GREEN SIGNS ANTI-VAPING LEGISLATION TO PROTECT KEIKI
News Release from Office of the Governor, Jun 6, 2023
HONOLULU, HI ̶ Governor Josh Green, M.D. today signed long-sought legislation to address youth vaping, which is approaching epidemic proportions worldwide. S.B. No. 975, S.D. 2, H.D. 3, C.D. 1, now Act 62, establishes the offense of unlawful shipment of tobacco products. This includes electronic smoking devices and e-liquids under the definition of “tobacco products” for purposes of the cigarette tax and tobacco tax law.
“This legislation has been years in the making and I applaud the Department of Health and all the advocates, including youth advocates, who have successfully stewarded this to fruition,” said Governor Josh Green, M.D. “This new law is going to improve the health of our young people and will prevent damaging addiction to nicotine for many, many of our keiki. That said, I know we all have more work to do in addressing vaping in our society, especially in our youth culture. I know that the Health Department and my former colleagues in the Senate and House are going to stay focused on this as part of their ongoing efforts for the health and safety of the people of Hawai‘i.”
“The explosion of youth vaping over the last 10 years has caused a health crisis in our schools and communities. Senate Bill 975 takes aim at the youth vaping epidemic by concentrating enforcement on the unregulated local and online vape market. This bill will reduce access and availability of electronic smoking devices to children and teens and stem the tide of vaping addiction overwhelming our schools,” said Senator Jarrett Keohokalole, (Senate District 24, Kāne‘ohe, Kailua), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection.
“This is an important bill in our battle against vaping and e-cigarette use and will eventually save us many lives because of the people it will divert from using tobacco,” said bill introducer Senator Karl Rhoads (Senate District 13, Dowsett Highlands, Pu‘unui, Nu‘uanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Punchbowl, Pālama, Liliha, Iwilei, Chinatown, and Downtown), chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
“S.B. No. 975 is a step in the right direction in our fight to curb the use of e-cigarettes among our youth population, while also providing comprehensive regulation of tobacco products in Hawaiʻi,” said Representative Scot Z. Matayoshi (House District 49, Maunawili, Puohala Village, a portion of Kāneʻohe). The House Chair of the Labor and Government Operations Committee continued, “We received overwhelming youth testimony in support of stricter measures on these nicotine products. By making vaping products more expensive, we make them less accessible to children and adults, lowering the negative health impact on our community.”
“This is going to save lives,” said retired Senator Rosalyn Baker, who for many years, led legislative efforts to pass the legislation. “This is such an important bill, to safeguard young people who may be attracted to vaping. It is important to have regulation to keep our citizens safe and healthy.”
“The science is clear that having appropriate taxes helps reduce the initiation of nicotine-containing products, especially for young people,” said pediatrician Bryan Mih, M.D., Medical Director of the Kapi‘olani Smokefree Families Program at Hawai‘i Pacific Health. “We now have a new law that will help reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and decrease the number of young people and children becoming lifetime nicotine addicts.”
“This has been a rewarding session for me and for all of my fellow youth advocates,” said Josh Ching, who has been a public health advocate since he was a freshman at Kamehameha Schools and was selected as a 2022 National Youth Advocate of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “There is a lot more work ahead, but I’m committed to the fight against profiteering industries like Big Tobacco and for a healthy future grounded in aloha – because that’s what it means to be Hawaiian.”
Act 62, Session Laws of Hawaiʻi takes effect on July 1, 2023.
Photos and videos of today’s bill signing ceremony.
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Gov. Green signs regulations on vaping, electronic smoking products into law
HSTA members spotlight harmful consequences in schools, classrooms
News Release from HSTA, June 6, 2023
Ameasure to tax and regulate electronic smoking devices and e-liquids in Hawaiʻi officially became law Tuesday. Lawmakers and advocates call it a strong first step in the fight against the state’s youth vaping epidemic.
Gov. Josh Green signed Senate Bill 975, which will tax electronic smoking devices and e-liquids, similar to tobacco products, and restrict shipping to wholesalers and retailers, meaning they could no longer be shipped directly to individuals. The measure was approved by the state Legislature in May.
“Regulation and taxation are tools that we have. They are critical in a comprehensive approach to dealing with the youth vaping epidemic,” Green said, “and we know it works and we know it will continue to work, because this is the model that we used on traditional cigarettes.”
Green has been a longstanding advocate in the fight against big tobacco, having chaired the Senate Committee on Health and subsequently Human Services from 2011 to 2018 (the two have since merged into a single committee). He recalled the fight alongside former state Sen. Roz Baker, who chaired the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection.
“By raising the taxes over the years, when Roz and I were running those committees, we were able to decrease tobacco use and increase resources for public
Teachers integral in fight against youth smoking, vaping epidemic
For years, the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association has worked with fellow advocates to advance legislation that protects our youth against the predatory practices of the tobacco and vaping industry, and in 2021, the HSTA Board of Directors joined the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Youth Council.
HSTA President Osa Tui, Jr. said he’s happy to see the bill signed into law Tuesday. “As teachers, we see some of the things that our students get into that parents don’t see. There are even students vaping in elementary school, and that’s something we don’t want to see creeping down earlier and earlier into these students’ lives.
“As educators, our kuleana isn’t limited to books or assignments. We support the entire well-being of our keiki to ensure they are safe, happy, healthy, and able to reach their fullest potential, in and out of the classroom,” Tui noted. “We’ve seen over the years as we’ve taxed cigarettes more and more, that it became out of reach of our students, and we want to make sure something similar happens with vaping products.”
Campbell High School accreditation and data coordinator Christine Russo says a lack of regulation provided youth with easy access to electronic smoking devices.
“What this bill has accomplished, I think, is really important because taxing it, creating parity with other tobacco products, will make the product less accessible,” said Russo.
“It’s been shown that the taxation on traditional cigarettes actually was one tool that was successful in curbing cigarette smoking, and so the increased taxation will be very helpful, as well as regulation on shipments. It’s making it more difficult for kids to get their hands on these products,” Russo said.
Laverne Moore, a special education teacher at McKinley High School and HSTA teacher lobbyist, says while a lot of data confirms the harms of electronic smoking on a youth’s health, very little addresses the impact on their education.
HSTA’s Government Relations (GR) Committee, made up of volunteer educator leaders from across the state, highlighted the educational impacts during this recent Legislative session, Moore said.
“(Lawmakers) really didn’t know that students in elementary school were vaping. They had no clue,” said Moore. “All the GR Committee members went to educate every single legislator as to the impact in schools — how the students are performing in school, how they’re leaving the classroom, how sometimes, when they’re aggravated, they threaten other students, and the other students are afraid. Nobody knew that story. It was our teachers telling those stories that made an impact.”
Hope McKeen, Keonepoko Elementary School kumu ‘ike Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian studies teacher) and GR Committee state chair, said the team focused on explaining how often teens are vaping and how it affects their learning. “Teens are so hooked on nicotine that when they do not get it, they get agitated and disruptive. This then interrupts their learning and the learning of others so that they can go take their hit of nicotine vape,” McKeen said.
Moore added, “They have short attention spans. They get aggravated very easily. They walk out of the classroom whenever they want to.”
Moore says while electronic smoking devices are banned, students often sneak them into school.
“I was able to identify in my class when the students were vaping. They wear these long hoodies and then they have it in their arms. They’re meeting in the bathroom and sharing different devices,” Moore said. “Sure, they (schools) take away all these vaping instruments and then it gets all collected, but where’s the support for the teachers, and where’s the emotional health for our students?”
Russo, a former HSTA teacher lobbyist, agrees. “You never want to accuse the student of doing something and be wrong, so the fact that (the devices are) very nondescript makes it hard to watch out for that in the classroom, and kids have ways to do it without being obvious to the teacher,” she said.
Lawmakers, advocates pledge more actions to come
Lawmakers and advocates say more needs to be done to fully address the youth vaping epidemic, like banning flavored nicotine products that appeal to youth and lead to addiction. While lawmakers have previously considered this option, a bill has yet to be passed.
Rep. Scot Matayoshi, who chairs the House Committee on Labor and Government Operations, said, “We know that nicotine is incredibly addictive — about as addictive as heroin — but yet we’re making it accessible to kids. We’re giving them candy flavors. This is absolutely insane to me. We’re currently dealing with a public health crisis that smoking has created. We know what’s coming, and yet we haven’t moved enough in that direction.”
Mitzie Higa, HSTA government relations specialist, says the tobacco industry needs to be held accountable. “In 2009, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) banned flavors for regular cigarettes; they banned everything except menthol, and the reason was because it entices youth to smoke. The same thing needs to happen again for vaping — but this time we want to include banning menthol — and until the FDA acts, the state needs to act.”
Russo added, “I think a multipronged approach is important and flavors still need to be banned. That’s something that still needs to happen, and I know HSTA will continue advocating for that.”
HNN: Vaping products in Hawaii to be heavily taxed under measure signed into law
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