HSTA applauds governor's intent to veto bill on e-cigarettes in schools

SB 1405 calls for confiscation, increased fines for youth

The Hawaii State Teachers Association supports Gov. David Ige's intent to veto Senate Bill 1405 Relating to Electronic Smoking Products.

The bill would require public school teachers or educators to confiscate electronic cigarettes or electronic smoking devices (ESDs) from students, require the Department of Health to create a safe harbor program for disposing ESDs, and increase the fines from $10 to $100 for any person under the age of 21 who violates laws relating to electronic smoking devices. 

HSTA has always opposed laws that focus on penalizing our youth for the use and possession of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. We do not want laws like this to contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Rather, we believe the e-cigarette industry should be regulated in the same way other tobacco companies are regulated, especially since these companies specifically target youth in their marketing campaigns. For example, HTSA previously supported a bill that would have banned candy-flavored e-liquids from being sold. It was, unfortunately, deferred.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee wrote in opposition of the bill:

"As the law is currently written, using confiscation and disposal, it will not solve our youth vaping epidemic and will instead place a high cost and burden on the Department of Education and the Department of Health for the disposal of these materials which are classified as hazardous materials. The health of our children needs to be protected at all costs, in and out of the classroom. Rather than focus on punitive laws that will punish the victims, our keiki, we must hold the tobacco industry responsible. Vaping products must be regulated in the same way as any other tobacco products and we need to counter the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing to our keiki."

In his rationale, Ige addressed additional concerns: 

"There are considerable implementation concerns and unknown costs relating to certain provisions in this bill. This measure does not include a definition for an 'electronic cigarette.' A definition is necessary to provide teachers, educators and students with an understanding of what items are subject to confiscation. Furthermore, confiscating and destroying evidence of a crime may hinder prosecution of those individuals responsible for selling or furnishing electronic cigarettes to persons under the age of 21. It should be noted that the costs to plan for and to create a safe harbor program, store and destroy ESDs, including the hazardous nicotine waste contained in these devices, are unknown and unfunded."

The governor must either sign or veto bills by July 9. If no action is taken on a bill it becomes law without his signature.