Health and youth advocates in Hawaii say vaping by middle and high school students is a crisis — and they are calling on lawmakers to ban all flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco products.
While opponents say the problem is blown out of proportion, teachers say they deal with it every day.
After a ban on flavored vape products was passed last year, lawmakers were expected to pass substantive legislation, but it was rejected because of flaws.
At the same time, teachers say, children struggling with nicotine addiction are disrupting classes.
Laverne Moore, a special education teacher at McKinley High School, has lobbied for the teachers’ union, the HSTA.
She is especially concerned about teen vaping after seeing kids who start vaping in middle school and high school struggle with their addiction.
“We have a real crisis in high schools.” “Moore said. “It’s hard for addicts to find work; their attention spans are so short, you don’t know when they’re going to explode.”
The bill before lawmakers would tax e-cigarette products, such as tobacco (HB 537) and ban all flavored products (HB 551). In testimony, health officials said surveys show 31 percent of high school students are regular users.
But Lindsey Stroud and the Taxpayer Defense League, a consumer center that opposes regulation, dispute that.
“It’s all about the so-called teen vape epidemic.” “Stroud said.
She and other industry advocates say federal surveys show e-cigarette use among young people is declining, but health officials say the data is distorted by the pandemic. Supporters of freedom to smoke also say the ban is unfair to legal adult users trying to break the habit.
“There is data to show that these products do help smokers quit, and taste is important for that.” “Stroud said.
But Moore says adults can sacrifice the candy-like taste.
“You don’t have to use it for the sake of the children.” ‘she said. “It’s not allowed to be sold during our state.”
Critics of the ban say it will only push kids and adults into the unregulated black market, where products can be more dangerous.
The House Finance Committee is expected to approve both bills on Wednesday and send them to the full House, which is expected to send them to the Senate.
Many other bills are still in effect.
But no matter what lawmakers do, it’s not certain that any solution will actually eliminate teen vaping, given the extent of the problem and the difficulty of spotting delivery devices.