The first bill, SB2304, was proposed by a group of six state senators. Its stated aim is to prevent young people taking up smoking by banning any “specialty tobacco shop” from opening within 750 feet of schools, parks or public housing. Anyone caught violating the law would face a $500 fine on the first day the offence was committed, with the penalty potentially rising to $2,000 for each subsequent day.
As well as this move against brick and mortar stores there’s a second prong to the state senate’s attack. Another bill, SB2654, targets online sales. It’s a follow-up to a bill that was floated in the state House last session, and its goal is to end online tobacco sales. Technically it makes it illegal to ship tobacco products to anyone who isn’t involved in the sale or distribution of tobacco; this obviously bans any sale to a private individual.
What matters for vapers is that SB2654 also adds e-liquid to the state’s definition of “tobacco product. The result is that both bills’ provisions would automatically affect vapour products too. Vape shops will be counted as “specialty tobacco shops”, while it will also become impossible to order e-liquid online from Hawaii-based retailers.
The problem is that, in urban areas, there isn’t a lot of space that’s more than 750 feet from a school, park or public housing complex. SB2304 isn’t quite a ban on new vape shops, but it’s not far off it – and, with online sales banned too, it’s going to be a lot harder for Hawaiians to get hold of harm reduction products from now on.