The bill to ban all flavored tobacco products has passed through the Hawaii House of Representatives on May 3. House Bill 1570 passed with 36 votes in favor and 15 votes against.
The bill in question is now in its final stages before becoming law, waiting only for Governor David Ige to sign. If Governor Ige signs off on the legislation, the law will come into effect starting July 2022.
This ban will encompass all flavored tobacco products, including items such as menthol and flavored cigarettes and cigars. Other products such as flavored vaping products, flavored smokeless tobacco and nicotine pouches will also fall under this ban.
It comes as no surprise that this bill has been put forward as a proposed solution for underage smoking and nicotine consumption.
Anyone found in breach of the proposed law will be subject to fines of $500 for first-time offenders, with repeat offenders subject to fines between $500 and $2,000.
Details on the Proposed Law
Upon Governor Ige’s signature, Hawaii will join the ranks as the fifth state to pass a flavor ban, the other states being Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. California is another state facing a flavor ban, pending a voter’s referendum in November 2022.
The legality of the proposed law has been called into question by Rep. Ryan Yamane, as well as the state attorney general’s office.
Yamane implored having amendments added in order to add a level of protection from potential lawsuits. These proposed amendments were intended to establish whether or not a product could be considered flavored or not, through “standardized and scientific testing.”
In the case of the state attorney general’s office, the title of the bill, “Relating to the Youth Vaping Epidemic,” has the potential to open itself up to challenge when considering the umbrella ban of any flavored tobacco product.
These challenges are a result of Hawaii’s constitution, which states that the title of any law must be directed solely to one subject. Having an umbrella-style ban on all flavored tobacco products could be seen as a breach of the state’s constitution.
Hawaii as a Test Case
Hawaii’s location provides a unique opportunity to observe the effects of a flavor ban without many external influences. As flavor bans continue to gain momentum across the US, it would be ideal for lawmakers to consider just how effective, or not, they can be in the case of Hawaii.
“Vaping products don’t disappear if you ban flavors. This is going to allow black market individuals to import them directly and sell them on the street. Now you have no age verification at all and you have a huge problem with youth access.” Scott Rasak of Volcano Vape Shop said in an interview with Honolulu Civil Beat.
Illicit trade is a huge possibility in the context of Hawaii. Other states that already have flavor bans have several loopholes for vapers to get around these laws, such as interstate travel. Hawaii being a series of islands accessible only by air means customs officials have the power to, at the very least, reduce the number of banned products brought in by airplane.
According to the CDC, approximately 1,400 people die of smoking-related illnesses annually in Hawaii. That being said, Hawaii boasts a lower prevalence of underage smoking and underage vaping than the rest of the country.
When considering these lower stats, such a severe flavor ban seems to be overkill at best.
Rep. Scot Matayoshi, one of the House representatives in favor of the bill, went on to elaborate on the thought process of the decision, “We’re not banning vaping, we’re banning flavored vaping. So people who want to use vaping to get off of smoking cigarettes can still vape using non-flavored vaping or tobacco-flavored vaping. If you smoke cigarettes, you should be used to that,” he continued.
Rep. Matayoshi’s sentiments can be seen as misguided with respect to the inherent value flavored products provide to the adult market. It is no secret that access to a wide assortment of flavors is one of the key motivations behind smokers moving from cigarettes to vapes.
As with many other states, the vast majority of flavored products are used by adults who either simply enjoy vaping or have taken to it as a means of smoking cessation.
Hawaii will become the fifth state to pass laws banning flavored vape products should Governor Ige sign the legislation. House Bill 1570 passed the House of Representatives on May 3. The proposed law will act as an umbrella ban for all flavored tobacco products, including vaping products, menthol and flavored cigarettes, as well as cigars. Once again, underage vaping and tobacco use has been the focus and driving force behind the ban. Illicit trade is expected to surge upon the passing of the law, as seen in the case of the other five states to have passed flavor bans.