HONOLULU (KHON2) — In light of the latest vaping-related illnesses, lawmakers are hoping to crack down on underage vaping in the next legislative session by making it harder for them to purchase e-cigarette products.
One of the ways they want to do this is by increasing prices.
“By taxing vaping products like we do tobacco and cigarettes, we’re going to make the price higher and make it much more unaffordable for youth to start vaping,” said Rep. Scot Matayoshi, who represents parts of Kailua and Kaneohe.
Lawmakers are not only hoping to increase taxes, but penalties for youth. Representative Sylvia Luke, who represents Nuuanu and Punchbowl, wants to bring back a bill from last session that would allow law enforcement to confiscate e-cigarettes used by people underage. She said that bill had been vetoed at the governor’s desk, but she believes now is the time to bring it back.
“We’re hoping that stronger, tougher penalties with confiscation is really the approach to take because we need to send a strong message,” said Luke.
Fines for getting caught are currently $10. She wants to raise that too.
“So we have increased the fine to somewhere more substantial between between $100 and $500,” said Luke.
That’s not the only bill lawmakers are hoping to bring back. Representative Scot Matayoshi is hoping to finally pass a ban on flavored e-cigarette products. The original bill did not pass the House of Representatives finance committee.
Rep. Luke who is the chair of that committee said at the time, the bill was not strong enough or specific enough.
“Last year the department did look at flavor ban. One of the things when we had the hearing, we found out that a lot of youth and young adults were getting their vaping products online, so even if we were able to ban flavor e-cigarettes or even cigarettes, people are still going to get it online,” said Luke. “We were very concerned that it was a small step as opposed to something that we wanted to do [that was] meaningful.”
However, Rep. Matayoshi thinks this is the key to helping end youth vaping.
“With flavored vaping clearly targetting youth and trying to get them addicted to nicotine for the rest of their lives, I think flavored vaping is an incredibly important topic that we tackle this legislative session and try our best to ban those products from getting into the hands of kids,” said Matayoshi.
Lawmakers are also looking at raising the age limit for purchasing both cigarettes and e-cigarettes to 25.
They say they’ll be working with the Department of Health to strengthen these bills.
“We’re hopeful that we will be working with the department and the governor to address some of their concerns and hopefully come up with some bills we can support,” said Luke.
The next legislative session will begin in January, 2020.