In an effort to stop escalating teenage vaping, Hawaii lawmakers are considering a proposal to outlaw electronic cigarette liquids.
According to The Associated Press, a 2017 study conducted by the Hawaii Health Department found 16 percent of middle-school students and 26 percent of high school students were current users of e-cigarettes. Even more disconcerting, the study found that the number of high school students experimenting with vaping jumped four-fold between 2011 and 2015.
Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., is director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. He told hopkinsmedicine.org that his main concern about the rise in vaping is that people who would’ve never smoked otherwise are taking up the habit. That is different than those who convert from cigarette smoking to vaping, he believes, and “it often leads to using traditional tobacco products down the road.”
Blaha is also concerned with the formulated flavorings, such as apple pie and watermelon, that appeal to young users.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is concerned as well, and earlier this month claimed vaping companies are clearly using marketing strategies to target younger users, according to the AP.
The FDA said it would prioritize removing vaping products that clearly appeal to kids, such as those with packaging that resembles juice boxes, candy, or cookies. The agency also made a proposal to restrict the sales of most flavored tobacco products to stores that verify the customer’s age upon entry or include a separate, age-restricted area for vaping products.
Regulating the makers of vaping products and the stores that sell them is one thing, but the proposal for an outright ban on flavored e-liquids the Hawaii legislature is considering is another.
Hawaii has been a leader in passing legislation to limit cigarette use, and is one of the most anti-smoking and healthiest states, according to U.S. News. In 2017, the Aloha State became the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21.
Hawaii boasts the third-lowest smoking rate and has the lowest mortality rate of any state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Hawaii legislature is also looking at a second bill that would bring taxes on e-cigarette sales in line with traditional cigarettes.
“By taxing them in a way similar to tobacco, we’re hoping that we can keep more young people from trying it, getting hooked on it, staying on it,” Senator Roz Baker, lead author of the second bill, told the AP.
The proposal also aims to ban all flavored tobacco with the exception of menthol.
The state Senate has passed versions of both bills, which now must pass the House Finance Committee by April 5 to advance to the full House.
Hawaii would be the first state to adopt such a ban under a bill before the Legislature. San Francisco was the first U.S. city to do so.