By Tommy Noyes

Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Youth Council member Zoey Duan provided heart-felt testimony to the Senate Health and Education Committees, decrying the poison pill amendments that had been added in an effort to kill a bill seeking to ban all flavored tobacco products in Hawai‘i. Video grab from YouTube

Late in March, good news came from the legislature regarding the initiative to combat Hawai‘i’s youth vaping epidemic. Senate committees heeded consistent messaging from youth advocates, community partners, and departmental supporters by revising and passing without opposition House Bill 1570. The bill is intended to prohibit the sale or distribution of all flavored tobacco and synthetic nicotine products in the state.

The Senate Health and Education committees fixed the bill that House Health, Human Services and Homelessness Committee Chair Rep. Ryan Yamane had previously nearly doubled in length, cramming it with poison pill amendments in a clumsy attempt to kill the bill. According to a March 14, 2022 Civil Beat article, Rep. Yamane’s campaign has accepted thousands of dollars from tobacco and vaping companies over the years.

Zoey Duan, a Punahou student, provided strong testimony challenging the amendments added to HB1570. “Recent amendments decreased the bill’s chance of being passed, diminishing its overall benefits to youth. The amendments are not necessary, nor are they related to ending the sale of flavored tobacco products. The testing requirements outlined in the amendments are unwarranted — no other state or jurisdiction that has implemented a flavor ban have had testing requirements like those in the amendments.

“By creating extra requirements, the amendments detract from the main intent of the bill and instead create burden for other agencies, so much so that they would be forced to pull their support from the bill.

“Lastly, as a youth who has been actively involved in the advocacy for a flavor ban for the past four years, it is disheartening when we are told that our voices matter, but our voices are wrongfully manipulated and twisted in practice. During the last hearing of the bill, my friends testified solely for the ending of flavored tobacco sales –– without any amendments to the original language of the bill –– but was misrepresented when the bill was amended with new requirements. I hope to see our youth voices being heard in its full authenticity.”

Joshua Ching, a Kamehameha Schools student representing the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Youth Council, delivered his testimony to the Senate Health and Education Committees remotely from New York City, where he was on a spring break excursion. “Our coalition strongly supports the original version of this bill, but questioned the amendments added by the House Committee on Health.

“These amendments place requirements on multiple departments that none of the five states or more than three hundred other jurisdictions have included in their flavor bans, doing nothing to protect Hawai‘i’s youth from predatory marketing by the tobacco industry.

“We strongly urge a return, not only to the original language, but to the original intent of this bill: ending the sale of flavored tobacco products in the most efficient way possible.

“Today, 70 percent of Hawai‘i residents, a majority of O‘ahu’s neighborhood boards, and over a hundred organizations across the state have supported an end to the sale of flavored tobacco. The only thing we don’t have is hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend every year lobbying and donating to political campaigns.

“It’s time to work for the public interest. It’s time to stand up to big tobacco. It’s time to prioritize the health and safety of our communities over boosting the coffers of an industry that profits off of our addiction.”

Please continue to track this bill to assure it makes its way through the legislative process with its original purpose intact if you agree that Hawaii’s youth deserve to be protected from the tobacco industry’s well-funded lobbying, marketing, and nicotine addiction campaigns.

  • Tommy Noyes is Kaua‘i Path’s executive director, a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor and active with the Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps.

 


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