Quit smoking? Hawaii sends mixed messages on smoking

Quit smoking? Hawaii didn't pass bills to raise the minimum smoking age to 21 or ban smoking on public beaches or at the University of Hawaii. But bills that would restrict smoking in public housing, restrict sales of flavored cigarettes, and make smoking more expensive are moving forward.

Hawaii lawmakers have killed proposals aimed at raising the legal age for buying tobacco to 21 and clamping down on smoking at beaches statewide. But they're advancing bills that would restrict smoking and make it more expensive, continuing a trend in Hawaii to crack down on smoking in public places.

"It's moving that way," said Rep. Karl Rhoads, a Democrat representing Kalihi and Chinatown. "It tends to have a cascading effect. The fewer and fewer smokers there are, the more restrictions we're going to see."

About one in seven adults in Hawaii smokes.

Rhoads introduced HB2577, which would confine smoking in public housing to designated areas at least 25 feet from buildings. Chronic violators could be evicted.

Rhoads said the measure, which passed the House, is aimed at preventing secondhand smoke from affecting sick people and kids in buildings where the units share ventilation systems.

"There is the potential for some real difficult choices to be made both for the tenant and the authority," Rhoads said, adding Hawaii's climate makes the bill more humane. "At least you're not saying, 'You've got to go out and smoke in minus-5 degree weather.'"

Sen. Josh Green said the Senate Health Committee, which he chairs, likely will move the bill forward.

"Anything to decrease smoking in society has a net benefit," said Green, a Democrat representing Kona and Kau.

The Senate passed SB2222, which would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol. Another successful Senate bill, SB2495, would regulate and tax electronic smoking devices much the same as tobacco. It also would restrict the use of those devices in workplaces and in public.

While electronic smoking devices deliver nicotine without the carcinogenic miasma of tobacco smoke, the devices are under scrutiny because of their reputed appeal to teenagers. A study published this week in JAMA Pediatrics found that young people who "vape," or use electronic cigarettes, are more likely to take up real smoking.

"We know it's becoming increasingly attractive to youth," said Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii. "Our concern is the people who aren't smoking cigarettes but picking up the electronic devices because they're cool."

Another Senate measure is expected to raise taxes on most non-cigarette tobacco products.

This legislative session hasn't been all bad news for smokers. Bills that would've outlawed tobacco sales to anyone younger than 21 have stalled. Opponents of those measures argued 18-year-olds who can serve in the military should be able to buy their own smokes.

A bill to ban smoking and tobacco use on the University of Hawaii premises didn't survive the House. A measure that would have banned smoking around kids on beaches, at parks, at bus stops and in vehicles limped out of the 2013 session and languished this year.

One surviving bill that counters the anti-smoking trend would cap the tax on large cigars at 50 cents, effectively slashing taxes on the most expensive stogies. That rate now runs at 50 percent of a cigar's wholesale price.


Sam Eifling can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sameifling.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Quit smoking? Hawaii sends mixed messages on smoking
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today