Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter today to Hawaii legislators, urging them to oppose a series of proposed bills that would cause great harm to the Hawaiian economy and decrease access to life-saving reduced risk tobacco alternatives. Some of the most harmful proposals include bans on flavored vaping products that have been proven critical to helping smokers quit cigarette use, prohibitions on remote and online sales of vapor products that would recklessly abandon those in rural areas, and massive tax increases on vaping that would keep adults smoking – and dying from – traditional combustible cigarettes. The full letter can be read below.
March 24, 2021
To: Members of the Hawaii Legislature
From: Americans for Tax Reform
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across Hawaii, I urge you to reject SB 1147, HB 598, HB 476, HB 1327, and HB 1328. Each of these bills would decrease access to lifesaving reduced risk tobacco alternatives like e-cigarettes and vapor products. If passed, these acts of legislation would lead to a clear increase in tobacco-related mortality in the state of Hawaii by forcing more adults to keep smoking – and dying from – dangerous traditional combustible cigarettes.
About E-Cigarettes and Vapor Products:
Traditional combustible tobacco remains one of the leading preventable causes of death in Hawaii. The negative health effects of combustible tobacco come from the chemicals produced in the combustion process, not the nicotine. While highly addictive, nicotine is a relatively benign substance like caffeine and nicotine use “does not result in clinically significant short- or long-term harms”.
Nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine patches and gums have helped smokers quit for decades. In recent years, advancements in technology have created a more effective alternative: vapor products and e-cigarettes. These products deliver nicotine through water vapor, mimicking the habitual nature of smoking while removing the deadly carcinogens that exist in traditional cigarettes.
Benefits of E-Cigarettes and Vapor Products:
Vapor products have been proven to be 95% safer than combustible cigarettes and twice as effective at helping smokers quit than traditional nicotine replacement therapies. Vaping has been endorsed by over 30 of the world’s leading public health organizations as safer than smoking and an effective way to help smokers quit.
Just last week, a new analysis by Public Health England demonstrated just how effective vaping is in helping people quit smoking, noting that in just one year, over 50,000 British smokers, who would have continued smoking otherwise, quit smoking with vaping.
Studies have repeatedly shown that flavors, which would be prohibited under HB 1327 & HB 1328, are critical to helping adult smokers make the switch to vaping. Adults who use flavored vapor products are 43% more likely to quit smoking than an adult who uses un-flavored products, according to a recent study from ten of the world’s top experts in cancer prevention and public health.
Evidence demonstrates that flavors also play no role in youth uptake of vaping. Academic studies have found that teenage non-smokers “willingness to try plain versus flavored varieties did not differ” and National Youth Tobacco Survey results have shown no increase in nicotine dependency among youths since flavored products entered the market.
A University of Glasgow study showed that e-cigarettes particularly help disadvantaged persons quit smoking. Another new study demonstrated that high-strength electronic nicotine products are particularly helpful for smokers with mental health issues quit smoking, like people with schizophrenia who smoke at rates more than three times the national average. Passing any of the aforementioned bills would fail to decrease inequalities in health and would widen further the socioeconomic disparities that disadvantaged communities face.
Vapor products would save over 28,000 lives if a majority of Hawaii smokers made the switch to vaping, extrapolating from a large-scale analysis performed by leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre.
SB 1147, HB 598, HB 476, and HB 1328 would each impose onerous taxes that would lead to disastrous impacts not only on Hawaii’s businesses, but public health as well. Taxing products proven to be significantly safer than traditional cigarettes at rates like those imposed on cigarettes would fail to incentivize smokers to make the lifesaving switch to vaping. Further, these taxes would drive them back towards deadly cigarettes, going against every principle of sound public policy. Minnesota is serving as a case study on this already. After the state imposed a tax on vaping products, it was determined that it prevented 32,400 additional adult smokers from quitting smoking.
We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that other aspects of SB 1147, such as the prohibition on online or remote sales, would significantly reduce access to persons in rural and remote areas of the state. Were these restrictions enacted, these persons, often in lower socioeconomic demographics and at the highest risk of smoking related mortality, would not have access to these reduced risk products, and would have no choice but to continue smoking combustible tobacco.
HB 1328 and HB 1327 would ban the sale of flavored vaping products. While many proponents of flavor bans believe it would decrease youth use of nicotine products, real world evidence from San Francisco proves otherwise. San Francisco’s ban on flavored vaping products and e-cigarettes had no impact on usage among youths. To the contrary, after nearly a decade of steady decline in youth use of combustible cigarettes, there has been an increase in cigarette smoking among youths in San Francisco since the flavor ban was enacted.
Flavors are also vital to adults seeking to quit smoking, as a recent study showed that it is 43% more likely for a cigarette smoker to quit when using a flavored product versus an unflavored or tobacco flavored product. A ban on flavored products would effectively outlaw sections of the Hawaiian economy, killing thousands of jobs and costing business owners their livelihoods at a time of great hardship due to the economic downturn brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the reasons above, in the interests of public health and protecting the Hawaiian economy, we urge you to reject HB 1328, HB 1327, HB 476, HB 598, and SB 1147. Tens of thousands of lives quite literally depend on it.
Director of Consumer Issues
Americans for Tax Reform