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E-cigarette ban becomes law on Big Island, could expand statewide

Many places on the Big Island where e-cigarette users could smoke are now off-limits.

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi signed a bill Wednesday that makes using e-cigarettes illegal at beaches, county parks, public buildings and all places tobacco smoking is already banned. It's a controversial issue that has both sides concerned, and one that could soon be enacted statewide.

Ask Sen. Josh Green (D-Kona, Kau) about e-cigarettes and he'll tell you it's a popular topic. "There are probably 15 (e-cigarette) bills that have come across my desk," he said.

One of those bills is his own. "Other people deserve not to have it blown into their faces, so my bill is going to do what the Big island's bill did and then some more things," Green said.

With multiple proposed bills, each lawmaker has his or her own ideas of what the ban should include.

"I'm just trying to change one aspect of it, which is to ban e-cigarettes wherever cigarettes are banned," said Sen. Breene Harimoto (D-Pearl City, Aiea).

Green says he wants to do more. "No smoking or using (e-cigarette) where traditional cigarettes are allowed to be smoked, age 21 to purchase them and some modest tax to use for public health," he said.

With a new legislative session just around the corner, this controversial topic will spark debates.

"I like to turn that around and say we are here to provide public safety and I think when we look at what is best for the public," said Harimoto. "That I think includes being sure they're safe."

Opening day of the legislature is on Jan. 21.

The proposed bills will be looked at in a committee meeting in early February and could go into effect soon after, if approved.

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