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Hawaii proposes SB 1055 to ban e-cigs (but not cigarettes) & HB 205 to legalize marijuana

Posted by Matt Rowland on

Hawaii was the first state in the nation to raise the legal smoking age to 21, and now its legislators want to ban the sale of nicotine enhanced e-cigs without including a similar ban on combustible cigarettes.  The bill entitled SB 1055 was officially introduced into the state legislature on January 24, and it is sponsored by two State Senators from the Democratic Party, Sen. Ronald Kouchi and Sen. William Espero. 

If passed by both houses of the State Congress, Hawaii Bill SB 1055 will take effect immediately upon approval.  Vapers will have no forewarning.  Overnight, all sales of electronic cigarettes containing any percentage of nicotine, and presumably all related nicotine-laced e-liquids sold separately, will be illegal for purchase across the entire state.

“Sale of certain electronic smoking devices prohibited.  It shall be unlawful for any person or business to sell, offer for sale, or introduce into commerce in the State an electronic smoking device that contains nicotine."

The entirety of Hawaii Bill SB 1055 is published online, and the document is very brief.  But why would state politicians want to ban electronic cigarettes containing nicotine while refusing to address a possible ban on deadly tobacco cigarettes?  And why are they simultaneously entertaining the notion of legalizing marijuana?

Hawaii SB 1055, taxation, and marijuana

Strangely, just a few days before SB 1055 was introduced onto the congressional floor, Hawaiian lawmakers also allowed the preliminary passage of a Marijuana Legalization Bill.  If passed, HB 205 which will allow adults over the age of 21 to legally possess limited amounts of marijuana for personal use.  Issues of taxation and law enforcement resources are cited as possible positive side benefits to the bill’s potential approval.

 “The legislature further finds that allowing personal use of a limited quantity of marijuana by persons who are twenty-one years of age or older, and taxing marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, would ease the current strain on law enforcement resources, as well as provide an additional revenue source.  Law enforcement resources could be redirected to more serious threats to public safety such as violent offenders, and income from black market enterprises could be redirected to legitimate businesses and new employers who will furnish tax revenues to the State.”

So, here we have Hawaiian legislators wanting to ban vaping, ignore smoking, and legalize recreational marijuana…all in the same week.  Is it simply because vaping technology is taxed at an alarmingly lower rate than alcohol, tobacco, and potentially marijuana?

HB 205 will rake in more tax dollars

Many vapers might be surprised to learn that the state of Hawaii has no sales tax, but it does have an alternative excise tax of only 4 percent.  Compared to the sales tax rate of Tennessee, for example, which is a whopping 9.46 percent, Hawaii isn’t making much money from the sales of vaping gear and e-liquids.

So, if given the choice to “ban something” to appease the anti-smoking lobbyists, Hawaii might be offering up the vaping industry as the proverbial sacrificial lamb.  Banning e-cigs instead of tobacco or marijuana is the least costly option because vaping gear doesn’t generate high tax dollars.  Is the introduction of Hawaii SB 1055 and HB 205 simply “all about the money?”

(Related Article:  National Park Service mysteriously backtracks on vaping ban with little explanation)


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