While some state legislators in Hawaii are seeking to raise the state’s tax on premium cigars, others are looking to lower it drastically by way of a 50-cent cap on the state’s existing rate of 50 percent of the wholesale price.

A trio of bills have been introduced into the legislature seeking said cap, the first of which is H.B. 769, introduced by House Speaker Joseph Souki, D-Wailuku. It seeks to implement the cap effective July 1.

The bill was scheduled for a hearing in the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee on Wednesday and is currently listed as being scheduled for decision making by the committee on Feb. 6.

The other bill, H.B. 1332—which has a companion bill in the state senate, S.B. 871—seeks to do the same thing, though with slightly different wording as it specifies that the cap would apply to a large cigar of any length.

Both of the changes would have a drastic impact on the cost of a cigar at the register; for instance, a cigar with an MSRP of $9.50 would drop from its current pre-sales tax price of $14.25 to a much more modest $10.50 by halfwheel estimates.

HB 1332 was introduced by Rep. Nadine Nakamura, D-Kapa’a, and Rep. Dee Morikawa, D-Waimea, while SB 871 was introduced by Sen. Ronald Kouchi, D-Kaua‘i.

The house bill has been referred to the Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce and the Committee on Finance, while the senate version has been referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.

Meanwhile, H.B. 247 is scheduled for decision making by the House Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce on Feb. 6 as well, while the senate version sits with the Committee on Ways and Means.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.