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Hawaii Considers Heavy Regulation Of Vapor Products

Hawaii Considers Heavy Regulation Of Vapor Products



Hawaii Considers Heavy Regulation Of Vapor Products

Hawaiian vapers be warned: if a new law passes at the state legislature, it may become almost impossible to get vapor products.

Bill 2B2654 targets vapor in two ways; by adding a 70 percent minimum tax along with a ban on online purchases of vapor products. Additionally, it would redefine e-liquid as a tobacco product, and vape shops will become officially known as “specialty tobacco shops.” This proposed tax is already receiving backlash from vapor advocates and vape shop owners, who say that it will endanger the industry on the island state.

"We don't know what it's going to end up as. We're strongly opposed to any taxes for our customers and the industry," Scott Rasak of Volcano Fine Electronic Cigarettes told Hawaii News Now in February.

Bad for Businesses

Currently, there's no specific Hawaiian state tax on vapor products, sales tax notwithstanding. There is, however, precedent for vape stores to worry about the future of their businesses. Past tax grabs of this magnitude, such as when Pennsylvania passed a whopping 40 percent tax on vapor products, caused hundreds of local vape shops to close their doors. Vape advocates have repeatedly argued, with varying success, that vapor products shouldn’t be considered tobacco for taxation purposes.

"Vapor products and tobacco products are completely different," Rasak insists. "They don't contain tobacco. There's no smoke. These are entirely separate products."

Hawaii was the first state to successfully pass regulatory reform upping the minimum age for the purchase of vape gear and e-liquids to 21. This kind of reform is one that most vapor advocates can support - stronger age restrictions are closely related to fewer instances of underage use, and most people who'll use nicotine products at any point in life have generally started by age 20. However, that’s a separate issue unrelated to raising taxes or banning online sales. As an island state, most of the state’s vapor products are imported from the mainland United States or abroad, meaning vapers' choices would be severely limited if online access was curtailed.  

College Campus Ban

There may be some hope the new regulations are shot down, as an attempt lawmakers made to impose a ban of smoking and vapor use on all state college campuses was unsuccessful, though even that measure is seeing new life in a separate bill.  

Senate Bill 134 proposes a prohibition of tobacco use, including both smoking and electronic smoking devices, at every facility owned or operated by University of Hawaii.

The law was introduced last year but stalled in the state’s Senate and died, but it was revived in March when it cleared the House committees on Health & Human Services and Higher Education, with the next committee being the House Committee on Labor & Public Employment.

Hawaii is already one of the hardest places to get vapor products, just based on its isolated location and bizarre rules that limit direct imports from China, where most vapor hardware is produced. These dueling legislative maneuvers, pushing to limit access to vapor products by pushing hefty taxation and banning online sales, and limiting places for vapers to go in public institutions, unite to form a common strategy that only limits ex-smokers who want to quit using vapor products.