On Monday, the Hawaii Senate passed a bill that will ban the sale of flavored tobacco within the state, but not before amending it to exempt menthol-flavored products, both traditional tobacco as well as e-cigarettes and vaping products. That means that the bill will head back to the state’s House of Representatives for another round of debate and could stall if the two chambers can not come to an agreement.
The bill, HB 2457, was amended prior to its third reading on Monday, with the Committees on Judiciary and Ways and Means passing it last Friday. It served a number of purposes, but most notably removed menthol from the definition of flavored tobacco products, and changed the effective date to Sept. 1, the latter a change necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic as the bill contained an effective date of July 1 when it was received by the Senate in early March.
The amended bill passed the Senate by a 24-0 vote.
Its passage was immediately panned by anti-tobacco organizations, with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids issuing a press release saying that it will urge the House to reject the amendment and pass a bill that bans all flavored tobacco products. The organization called it a failure by the Senate to protect the state’s youth while giving the green light to tobacco companies to continue targeting the state’s kids with menthol products.
While the amended bill also removed language relating to parental notification and choice of penalty for offenders under 21-years-of-age, it did not remove the penalties for underage persons for the purchase or possession of tobacco, which earned them additional criticism from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The organization argues that penalties should be imposed on tobacco retailers who sell illegally to underage persons, not on the purchasers, who it says have been targeted and victimized by tobacco companies. The bill would impose a fine of $10 on persons under 21 in possession of tobacco, as well as being required tomplete a tobacco education program or a tobacco use cessation program approved by the director of health, or performing three hours of community service.
If the bill passes and is signed into law, retailers violating the ban would be subject to a fine of up to $500 for a first offense, and any agent or employee of the retailer who knowingly violates this section may also be fined up to $500. Any subsequent offenses shall subject the offender to a fine of no less than $500 nor more than $2,000.
The bill also would require the Department of Education to establish a safe harbor program by which persons under 21 years of age may dispose of electronic smoking devices in their possession, and would require public school teachers and educators to confiscate electronic smoking devices.