Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Hawaii. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Hawaii calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Ensure taxes on all tobacco products are equal to the cigarette tax;
- Maintain funding levels for tobacco prevention and control efforts; and;
- Expand smokefree environments at the state and local levels.
The 2017 session was a challenging one for tobacco control advocates, including the American Lung Association in Hawaii. Bills were introduced to increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products, and establish a tax on electronic smoking devices. The proposed cigarette and electronic smoking devices tax passed through all the Senate committees and its first House committee. Unfortunately, the House Finance committee did not have a hearing on any of the proposals.
Legislation was also introduced to require licensing and permits for the sale of electronic smoking devices. This legislation would enable the Department of Health to track businesses selling electronic smoking devices and ensure compliance with tobacco retail laws. Despite having a strong champion, Senator Baker, this proposal died on the last day of legislative session.
Legislation to prohibit smoking in vehicles with kids was also introduced and had strong support from some legislators and youth. The bill received earned media attention, but in the end, did not get through the Finance and Ways and Means committees.
In October 2017, the Honolulu City Council unanimously passed legislation to protect children from secondhand smoke and aerosol in cars. Honolulu joins Kauai and the Big Island in passing this health protection for youth.
The American Lung Association in Hawaii will continue to build on the momentum established during the 2017 legislative session. Advocacy efforts with partners and stakeholders will continue to support proposals to increases tobacco taxes and establish licensing for electronic smoking devices.