But it will only take effect if state law nullifying county ordinances that regulate the sale of tobacco is reversed.

A bill that aims to end the sale of flavored tobacco within the City and County of Honolulu is a step closer to becoming law.

The measure was introduced by council member Matt Weyer and council Chair Tommy Waters. It prohibits the sale of flavors “including but not limited to any taste or smell relating to fruit, menthol, mint, wintergreen, chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, honey, molasses, or any candy, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb, or spice.” Products that give a cooling or numbing sensation also fall under the bill’s definition of “flavored tobacco product.” 

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi signed the so-called trigger law on Friday, but the ban won’t take effect unless state lawmakers agree to give counties the authority to regulate such products.

Currently, state law “preempts” county law when it comes to the sale of tobacco, meaning that counties cannot pass their own regulations relating to the subject. This is because the Legislature passed Act 206 in 2018, declaring the sale of tobacco a matter of statewide concern. It also included a line rendering null and void any county law that conflicted with the bill. 

Sen. Chris Lee introduced Bill 1284 the very next year to loosen this restriction, but the bill stalled before reaching its second public hearing. 

Bill 46 therefore only takes effect once state law is changed. 

“This bill, and efforts to pass similar legislation in other counties across the state, puts pressure on state lawmakers to take action,” says the city’s accompanying press release.

Bill 46 passed 6-3 in the council, with council members Augie Tulba, Andria Tupola and Calvin Say voting no. They were concerned with the logistics of enforcement and how the bill is technically ineffective without state action. 

Some health groups opposed the bill, taking issue with its exemptions for premium cigars, loose leaf tobacco and shisha products used with hookah pipes. Opposition also came from some people in the retail space.

Bill 46 largely aims to lessen the amount of young people who are attracted to smoking flavored e-cigarettes. 

Approximately one-third of high school students in Hawaii say that they smoke e-cigarettes, with the vast majority of them saying that they began with flavored e-cigarettes, according to data from the Department of Health. 

“This is the first step in addressing our youth vaping epidemic, and it ensures that Honolulu is ready to take action when our regulatory power is restored by the State,” Weyer is quoted as saying in the press release.

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