The measure will ban the sale of flavoured vaping products, menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigars.
In 2009, the federal Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act had banned fruit and candy flavours in combustible cigarettes, but allowed them in e-cigarettes. While in 2020, House Bill 2457 called The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2020, would have banned the sales of all flavoured tobacco and vaping products across the State.
The bill would have also made it unlawful for any retailer to label their products inaccurately, mention any flavours in the labeling and/or market the products in a way that makes them more appealing to teens. This proposal was followed by several others, the most recent being House Bill 1570, which was finally passed last week.
The changes in the bill include multiple mandates for reporting and testing requirements from state agencies, that advocates say would just make it difficult to enforce the ban. “It’s disheartening to us that something that is so serious would be compromised by these amendments,” said Amanda Fernandes, policy and advocacy director for the Hawaii Public Health Institute. “It is a very common tactic for the tobacco industry to lobby for these types of poison pills to be inserted into otherwise good tobacco policy.”
HB 1570 will take effect in 2023
Bill sponsor Rep. Scot Matayoshi, acknowledged HB 1570’s shortcomings in a speech on the House floor, adding that Hawaii was at level “zero” in combatting the local teen vaping epidemic. “We have tried for years, in this chamber, to pass any kind of flavored vaping ban or restriction,” said Matayoshi. “And we stand here now … about to give our kids some kind of hope that they don’t have to be addicted to nicotine for the rest of their lives.”
The ban, will take effect at the beginning of 2023 and will ban the sale of flavoured vaping products, menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigars. The local vape industry, which was already regulated in a way to prevent sales to minors, will suffer a great hit.
“99.9% of everything that our industry sells to adult consumers, legally with age verification, is flavored products,” said Scott Rasak, chief operating officer of Volcano, a vape shop chain with 16 locations across the state. “We’re talking about hundreds of businesses, thousands of jobs.”
Flavour bans do not work
Vape shop owners say that the ban will only lead to an expanding black market of the products, and data from regions where such bans were imposed support this claim. A 2020 testimony at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Illegal Tobacco Task Force discussed data on how vapers were responding to such bans. Non-surprisingly the task force concluded that the flavour ban implemented locally, will lead to “an increase in smuggling activity and black-market sales.”
“I’m concerned that placing an added burden and tasking law enforcement with the enforcement of flavor bans will only stand to create a significant new black market, this includes both cross-state border smuggling and counterfeit tobacco,” said Charles Giblin, a retired special agent in charge of the New Jersey treasury’s office of criminal investigation.
“At the onset, you’ll start to see an increase between Massachusetts and New Hampshire in smuggling and illegal importation via the internet of counterfeit flavored cigarettes from countries including China and Paraguay. They will skyrocket almost incredibly instantaneously,” he said. And sadly, this was indeed the case.
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