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Hawaii proposal to ban vape flavors dies in committee

In March 2019, Hawaii lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban the sales of flavored e-liquids statewide.  Senate Bill 1009 SD2 HD2 initially garnered widespread bipartisan support and even made its way to the House Committee of Finance, the final hurdle before being sent to Governor David Ige to be signed into law.

However, those efforts were ultimately thwarted when committee chairperson Representative Sylvia Luke tossed the bill by way of deferment.  As a legislative compromise of sorts, the committee voted instead to increase sin taxes on vapor products and to escalate financial penalties on teen vapers.

Research confirms that adults like flavored vapes, too.

Senate Bill 1009 SD2 HD2 specifically called for the prohibition of sales of “characterizing flavors” allegedly designed and advertised to encourage underage e-cigarette usage. Specific flavors “include but are not limited to tastes or aromas relating to any candy, chocolate, vanilla, honey, fruit, cocoa, coffee, dessert, alcoholic beverage, menthol, mint, wintergreen, herb, or spice.”

What Hawaii politicians failed to consider is the voluminous amounts of current research which confirms that potential restrictions of flavored e-liquids would likely discourage adults smokers trying to quit. And while Rep. Luke agrees that teen vaping is a really “tough issue” to maneuver politically, she seems to have sided – at least temporarily - with the scientific research rather than cave to the numerous calls for Nanny State anti-vaping legislation. 

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Several of Like’s political colleagues also seem to support the move for deferment of the flavor ban in favor of strengthening taxation regulations and financial penalties.   According to ABC News, Rep. Scott Matayoshi believes that raising the fines for teens caught purchasing vapor products may be deterrent enough. 

 “I don’t feel like that the rights of adults to smoke flavored e-cig liquid outweighs our obligation to protect kids from getting addicted to a substance that’s made to be addicting,”

A recent vaping study conducted by the Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR) confirms that adult vapers prefer those sweet and fruity e-liquids flavors that politicians love to hate just as much as underage teenagers, perhaps even more.  After interviewing over 20,000 adult vapers, the study led by CSUR’s Deputy Director Dr. Christopher Russell indicates that over 70 percent of adult frequent vapers prefer fruit and fruity beverage flavored e-liquids best.  

“The majority (n = 15,807; 76.4%) of sampled frequent e-cigarette users had completely substituted e-cigarettes for conventional cigarettes—“switchers”—and were currently using rechargeable, refillable vaping devices. Among them, the proportion of first e-cigarette purchases that were fruit-flavored increased from 17.8% of first purchases made before 2011 to 33.5% of first purchases made between June 2015 and June 2016. Tobacco-flavored first purchases almost halved during this time (46.0% pre-2011 to 24.0% between 2015 and 2016). Fruit/fruit beverage (73.9 to 82.9% of sampled users), dessert/pastry (63.5 to 68.5% of sampled users), and candy, chocolate, or sweets (48.7 to 53.4% of sampled users) were the most popular currently used e-cigarette flavors.”

The CSUR study published last summer in the Harm Reduction Journal further suggests that passage of any legislation – state, local, or federal -  that would theoretically ban or restrict the sales of flavored vapor products might have the opposite desired effect.  Instead of slowing the national rates of tobacco use, these anti-vaping laws would likely discourage millions of smokers from attempting to quit through vaping.  Politicians who attempt to make the purchasing processes of tobacco harm reduction tools like e-cigarettes more difficult for adults are essentially acting against their government interests of public health.  

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