As we approach the halfway point of the legislative session, we are grateful that all of HIPHI’s legislative priorities are moving. Unfortunately, we only have one bill alive for each priority; all originated in the Senate. We thank all of our advocates that have taken action so far and ask that you continue to show your support! We have an uphill battle and every action counts to advance our bills.

This year, we’re excited to be one of the founding non-profit partners for KĀKOU, a free app by Pacific Resource Partnership that promotes digital advocacy by making it easy to participate in the legislative process. We encourage you to download the app and follow Hawai‘i Public Health Institute to be notified when important bills are scheduled for a hearing and take action right from your phone.

Here are some of the bills we are working on this year:

Tobacco Bills:

Vaping Regulation (HB1574/SB1405)
Regulates vaping by 1) requiring sellers to obtain a tobacco permit/license; 2) applying a tobacco tax to e-cigarettes; and 3) ending online sales to consumers to prevent access to underage youth.

HIPHI has been working on getting e-cigarettes regulated for the last five years. E-cigarettes need to be subjected to the same regulations as tobacco products to ensure public health protections and promote retailer responsibility in following our tobacco sales and access laws.

Ending the Sale of Flavored Tobacco (HB276/SB1009)
Prohibits the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol and flavored e-liquids.

Hawai‘i is already experiencing a youth vaping epidemic. Eight in ten youth that use tobacco start with a flavored product. With more than 15,000 flavors such as Cookie Monsta, Gummy Bears, and Cotton Candy, it’s clear that these products are not being marketed to adults. Ending the sale of candy-flavored tobacco products is necessary to protect our kids from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco and nicotine.

Healthy Eating and Active Living Bills:

Healthy Drinks in Kids Meals (HB142/SB549)
Requires restaurants that sell children’s meals (that include a beverage) to make the default beverage a healthy beverage such as water or milk.

Sugary drinks are the single largest source of added sugars in our kids’ diets, making up half of all sugars consumed.  This measure helps to support parents in keeping their kids’ healthy. Instead of getting a sugary drink without asking for one, kids will have the opportunity to start their meal with a healthy beverage, such as water or milk.

Double Up Food Bucks for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Recipients (HB262/SB390)
Appropriates funds for the Department of Agriculture to create a dollar-for-dollar matching program for beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to purchase Hawaii-grown produce.

Double Up Food Bucks provides a dollar-for-dollar match on the value of SNAP, previously known as food stamps, when spent on local fresh fruits and vegetables. Double Up is a triple win because 1) low-income families bring home more healthy food; 2) local farmers gain new customers and bring in more income; and 3) more food dollars stay in the local economy.

Farm to School P-20 (HB1102/SB762)
Establishes and appropriates funds for the P-20 agriculture education coordinator position within the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa college of tropical agriculture and human resources.  Specifies duties of the coordinator and P-20 agriculture education working group.

Agriculture education at all levels (P-20) is key to strengthening Hawaii’s food security and food self-sufficiency through the development of future farmers and a supportive citizenry. Fundamental to expanding student interest in agriculture is the infusion of agriculture education into teacher development programs.

Oral Health Bills:

Restore Adult Dental Benefits for Medicaid Enrollees (SB467)
Makes an appropriation to the department of human services to restore adult dental benefits to Medicaid enrollees. Requires federal matching funds.

Medicaid does not provide any preventive oral healthcare for adults, only emergency dental (extraction or pain management). Adult Medicaid enrollees have no coverage for preventive or routine dental care, and this lack of access has a negative impact on one’s health.

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