WASHINGTON, July 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Hawaii Senate today let down the state's kids and families by passing legislation (HB 2457) that exempts menthol e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes from a proposed ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products despite the clear evidence that menthol products appeal to kids. This legislation will not stop the youth e-cigarette crisis that is addicting so many of Hawaii's kids, and it gives the green light to tobacco companies to continue targeting the state's kids with menthol products. Rather than protecting Hawaii's kids, this bill protects the interests of tobacco companies like Juul, Altria and R.J. Reynolds, the leading sellers of menthol e-cigarettes and cigarettes.
Our public health organizations strongly oppose the bill passed by the Senate. We urge the Hawaii House of Representatives to reject these harmful menthol loopholes pushed by the tobacco industry and pass a bill that ends the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol products.
The evidence is clear that flavors drive youth use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, and only the elimination of all flavors can reverse this crisis. If menthol or any other flavors are left on the market, kids will flock to them. We know this from experience. For example, after Juul restricted the availability of flavors other than mint and menthol in November 2018, youth use of mint and menthol e-cigarettes soared. Similarly, after Juul was pressured to end the sale of its mint products in November 2019, sales of menthol e-cigarettes soared. There is every reason to believe that if Hawaii leaves menthol products on the market, kids will shift to them.
We also know from decades of experience with menthol cigarettes that menthol appeals to kids. In fact, over half of current youth smokers smoke menthol cigarettes.
The biggest beneficiary of an exemption for menthol e-cigarettes would be Juul, the company most responsible for creating the youth e-cigarette crisis. It makes no sense for the Hawaii Senate to help Juul at the same time the state is suing Juul (and its Altria partner) for targeting and addicting kids. As Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors stated in filing the lawsuit, "In marketing their e-cigarettes to Hawaii's children, these companies ripped pages directly out of the tobacco-company playbook and resurrected Joe Camel for a 21st Century audience. By misrepresenting nicotine content and by presenting their products as healthy alternatives to cigarettes, they deceived the public and created a new generation of nicotine addicts."
It is also disappointing that the bill passed by the Senate fails to remove penalties on youth for the purchase, use or possession of tobacco products. Penalties should be imposed on tobacco retailers who sell illegally to kids, not on kids who have been targeted and victimized by tobacco companies.
In Hawaii, 1 in 4 high school students (25.5%) now use e-cigarettes. We urge Hawaii lawmakers to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol products, in order to prevent e-cigarettes from addicting a new generation of kids and stop the tobacco industry from targeting kids with flavored products once and for all.
SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids