Smoking cigarettes is harmful to your health. In the United States, we hear about that from everywhere, including on the packs of cigarettes themselves. All around the world there are laws that restrict tobacco use and warn of its dangers. In Europe, they don’t mess around, tobacco products have warning in big text that say “Smoking Kills”. So in general, any alternative that can help people to stop smoking is a good thing.
In Hawaii, the legislature is considering making a big mistake in this regard. While nicotine patches, lozenges, and gums are advertised as ways to stop inhaling smoke, nicotine delivery systems that mimic cigarettes are given the opposite treatment. Electronic cigarettes offer the same nicotine fix without smoke and tar that nicotine gum provides, with a different delivery system. And yet, the Hawaiian legislature is considering redefining tobacco to include e-cigarettes.
How is this possible? Clearly there is some sort of misunderstanding. Or else the Hawaiian legislature is really just trying to get a lot of tax dollars out of smokers of e cigarettes. The two bills, House Bill 2557 (HB2557) and Senate Bill 2819 (SB2819) are said to protections. If e cigs are in the same category as tobacco products, minors will not be allowed to purchase them. That is all well and good, but the other side of the coin represents huge taxes. Tobacco products in Hawaii have a whopping 70% state luxury tax added to them.
By classifying non-tobacco cigarettes as tobacco, the State of Hawaii will increase revenue from taxes. Sadly, they will also discourage suppliers, supporters, and users of electronic cigarettes. Every accessory, including batteries and atomizers, would be considered tobacco and would incur the tobacco tax. For electronic cigarette companies, this could be a really big deal, and those businesses may decide to go elsewhere rather than risk investing in a market that is being discouraged from buying their products.
If the Hawaii State legislature wants to protect minors in the State, they should introduce bills that require that nicotine products not be sold to minors. Alternatively, they could simply lump e cigs with other nicotine products. But to redefine the word tobacco to include electronics makes no sense and will have unintended negative consequences.
Smokers who switch to e cigarettes experience positive health effects within a couple of weeks. There is no tar or other dangerous carcinogens in an electronic cigarette. And, perhaps most relevantly, e cigarettes contain no tobacco. The arguments against the law are numerous, and many in Hawaii hope to see it tabled indefinitely. Especially those who have switched to e Cigarettes and do not want to see a huge jump in price, in the coming years.
If you’ve just congratulated yourself on switching from tobacco cigarettes to ecigs, and then you find out prices will rise considerably, things look a little less sunny. Of course, the health benefits are still there, as is the fact that you will no longer smell like an ashtray. But what message is the Hawaii legislature trying to send?