Governor Josh Green, M.D. signed long-sought legislation to address youth vaping, which is approaching epidemic proportions worldwide, according to state officials.
SB 975, 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 Gov. Green. “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,” Green said.
Senator Jarrett Keohokalole, (District 24, Kāne‘ohe, Kailua), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection said, “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.”
“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 Senate Karl Rhoads (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.
“SB 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 (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.”
Pediatrician Bryan Mih, M.D., Medical Director of the Kapi‘olani Smokefree Families Program at Hawai‘i Pacific Health, said, “The science is clear that having appropriate taxes helps reduce the initiation of nicotine-containing products, especially for young people. 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.