The 2019 legislative session if officially wrapped up. It was a good year for some of AHA's priority issues but not everything ended the way we had hoped.
The Good News:
- SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) “double-up” funding -The state legislature passed SB 390, CD1. This bill provides $50,000 per year over the next two years to fund the SNAP “double-up” programs which allow SNAP recipients to purchase twice the amount of Hawaii-grown produce (up to $10 per day) with their SNAP dollars at participating retailers or farmers markets. This is good for health and supports local farmers who grow the produce.
The state dollars will be matched by a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation bringing the total for the program to $100,000 per year for two years. The state also plans to apply for matching federal funds to potentially bring the total of “double-up” benefits to $200,000 per year.
- Healthy By Default Kids Meals beverages - The state legislature passed SB549 HD2, requiring Hawaii restaurants that serve “kids meals” to offer either water, unflavored non-fat or 1% milk, or 100% fruit juice in serving sizes of 8 ounces or less, as the default beverage with the kids meal. Parents can still request other beverages, but the bill makes the healthy choice the default offering. If signed by the governor, Hawaii would become only the second state to pass this policy (California was the first).
The Governor still needs to sign both these bills but we are optimistic that he will.
hero_image_alt_text===Picture of the Hawaii Capitol Building
thumbnail_alt_text===Picture of the Hawaii Capitol Building
The Bad News:
Youth penalty for possessing e-cigarette or other tobacco products - SB 1405, CD2 originated as a bill that the AHA supported and would have regulated the sale of e-cigarettes by establishing a tax on e-cigarette liquids with a portion of the revenue allocated to education, prevention and control programs, banned the online sale of e-cigarette products, and required e-cigarette wholesalers and retailers to acquire a license to sell the products (allows for better identification of businesses selling e-cigarettes to make enforcement of illegal sales to minors more effective). Unfortunately, the bill was amended during conference committee by House leadership to eliminate the language listed above, and replaced with language that would penalize youths $100 if caught in possession of these products. The bill also requires the Department of Education to confiscate and dispose of e-cigarette products found in possession of anyone on school grounds under age 21.
The AHA opposes youth penalties for possession of tobacco products because:
- Laws that penalize underage youth for purchase, use or possession (PUP) of tobacco products are ineffective in reducing tobacco use, difficult to enforce and raise the possibility of selective enforcement against young people of color. Big Tobacco has targeted youth for decades, seeking to create new generations of addicted customers. Instead of holding the industry and the retailers accountable, PUP laws shift the responsibility to their victims – young customers who are purchasing and using a deadly and highly addictive product.
- Additionally, PUP laws are unlikely to reduce youth initiation and smoking prevalence at the population level. They are also inequitable because they disproportionally affect youth of color, LGBT youth, youth with disabilities and boys who are more likely to smoke because they have been targeted via advertising and retailer placement by the tobacco industry.
- Primary enforcement should focus on retailer compliance with not selling to minors rather than on illegal purchases or youth possession.
- Comprehensive tobacco retailer licensing policies, with appropriate funding and enforcement, have proven to be more effective than PUP laws in reducing youth initiation and ongoing tobacco use.
The AHA is working with our community partners to secure a veto by the Governor of this bill.