Hawaii: Governor Ige Likely to Veto Flavored Vape Ban

Hawaii Governor David Ige has announced he will probably veto the ban on flavored vapes and tobacco passed by the state legislature in May. It is one of the 30 bills from the 2022 legislative session Ige, a Democrat, said he plans to reject.

Gov. Ige has until July 12 to make a final decision about the bill. If he takes no action, it will become law automatically. If he vetoes, the state legislature can override the action with a two-thirds vote. It isn’t known if bill supporters have the votes to override a veto, or if they would pursue an override.

The law, if signed by the governor, would prohibit sales of all tobacco and nicotine-containing products in flavors other than tobacco, including vaping products, cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and nicotine pouches and lozenges. It provides fines of up to $2,000 for retailers who violate the ban.

The flavor ban includes both menthol vapes and cigarettes, but provides an exemption for nicotine products authorized through the FDA’s Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA) pathway. (The FDA has not authorized any menthol vaping products.)

The PMTA exemption caused controversy in the state, along with other amendments proposed by state legislators supposedly friendly to the tobacco industry. Its inclusion in the bill caused many anti-tobacco (and anti-vaping) organizations to pull their support for the legislation.

“The amendment was actually requested by a person who is the registered lobbyist for Juul Labs,” Hawai’i Pacific Health Institute policy and advocacy director Amanda Fernandes told Hawai’i Public Radio. “And what this amendment does is it essentially exempts a bunch of flavored tobacco products, including many menthol cigarettes and anything that is authorized in the future by the FDA.”

Gov. Ige cited the PMTA exemption in the written explanation for his likely veto. “There was a late amendment to the definition of ‘flavored tobacco product’ in this bill which exempted certain FDA approved tobacco products,” Ige explained. “This amendment essentially renders the bill ineffective since very few products would actually be included in this ban.”

Four states have current flavored vape bans, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York. California passed a flavor ban in August 2020, but the law is on hold until voters decide in a November 2022 referendum whether to approve the ban.

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