State of Hawaii Wants to Redefine “Tobacco”
While we may be used to seeing strange definitions in arcane legislation, not that many current bills attempt to redefine plants. In the State of Hawaii, the legislature is preparing to redefine tobacco so that electronic cigarettes can be included in tobacco taxation laws as well as make the sale of ecigarettes to minors illegal. House Bill 2557 (HB2557) and Senate Bill 2819 (SB2819) are designed to include ecigs in the legislation that already exists to limit or discourage the use of tobacco products. But to do so, they have to pretend that electronic cigarettes contain tobacco.
The unfortunate problem here is that by putting the same high taxes on a cigarette alternative, they may be creating larger headaches in the future. Ecigarettes are decidedly healthier than tobacco cigarettes, offering smokers a smoke-free way to get their nicotine fix, just like nicotine patches or gums. The added benefit of ecigs is that smokers can still have the same experience of inhaling warmth, something that helps tobacco smokers to adjust. Electronic cigarettes contain no tar or smoke, just nicotine infused water. They are a nicotine substitute that smokers are now using to improve their health.
And for any city or state in the country, improved health means lower health care costs. So while taxation of ecigarettes may bring in a little extra revenue for the state, what the state should really do is encourage the use of ecigs over tobacco cigarettes. The improvement in health and the decrease in health care costs could outweigh the loss in tax revenue. This is looking like a pay now or pay later situation, and the long term cost is more than just monetary. Smokers who become ill suffer incredibly due to their addiction. Quitting smoking is not easy, and any help that can be offered should be made available and encouraged.
Plus, isn’t the point of government to ensure that the quality of life of the people is as high as possible. They build and maintain roads so we all can use them, that’s why we pay taxes. Luxury taxes, such as the high taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, are meant to discourage the use of harmful and unnecessary habits. While we may not all agree about the logic behind these laws, perhaps we can agree that lumping a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes in with tobacco, even if it contains no tobacco, is ludicrous.
So how is discouraging the use of electronic cigarettes good for the people? Maybe that’s a question for the legislature in Hawaii. While there may be some downsides to nicotine addiction, they are nothing compared with the downsides of smoking tobacco. Ecigarette smokers smell better, feel better, and live longer than tobacco smokers. The decision to switch should be encouraged, not discouraged. If you are interested in signing the petition to stop HB2557 and SB2819, follow the link below: