While many of us are hoping for a better year in 2021, the upcoming legislative session is anticipated to be challenging. The state is grappling with a huge budget deficit and lawmakers will be focusing their efforts on balancing the budget, which may result in budget cuts and furloughs. The COVID-19 pandemic will remain a threat even with a vaccine, as demand will exceed supply for months to come. The State Capitol will also be closed to the public and hearings, including public testimony, to be online.

At HIPHI, we will continue to make public health a priority at the state legislature. There are so many health and societal issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. These issues include:

Comprehensive regulations on tobacco products

Use of e-cigarettes among youth continues to rise, and we cannot afford to let this trend continue. We can reverse this alarming trend by passing policies to reduce the accessibility and appeal of tobacco products, as well as investing in tobacco prevention and education programs. A single policy is helpful, but a comprehensive and coordinated effort is most effective at reducing both youth and adult tobacco use. This combination has worked to bring Hawaii’s adult and youth smoking rate to record lows, and can work again to protect our keiki from the latest threats from Big Tobacco. Components of this bill include:

  • Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including the flavor menthol – these flavors entice youth, while the nicotine keeps them hooked for life.
  • Restricting online sales – requiring face-to-face purchases makes it harder for underage youth to obtain these products via the internet.
  • Requiring licensing and permitting for tobacco retailers and wholesalers to help implement and enforce regulations.
  • Applying a tobacco tax to e-cigarettes – it’s the only tobacco product without one.
  • Allocating a portion of the tobacco tax revenue to fund tobacco prevention, cessation, and education programs.

Learn more at flavorshookkidshi.org.

Sugary drink fees to invest in public health

A fee on sugary drinks is an investment in health. Not only does it encourage people to choose healthier drink options, but a two-cent-per-ounce fee would raise $65.8 million in revenue for programs to improve the health of keiki and families, such as Double Up Food Bucks.

*Campaign website coming soon!

Expand access to Double Up Food Bucks – A triple win for Hawaii’s families, farmers and local economy

Double Up Food Bucks needs additional funding to continue this important program providing healthy foods to families and business for local farmers and businesses. The program works by providing SNAP recipients a dollar-for-dollar match on locally-grown, fresh produce at participating farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and other retailers. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for this important program due to the increase in SNAP enrollment and has resulted in four times the anticipated usage rate.

Learn more at dabux.org.

Improve oral health access

For the last few years, the Hawai‘i Oral Health Coalition has pursued the restoration of dental benefits for adult Medicaid enrollees. Adult Medicaid enrollees have no coverage for preventive or routine dental care and only emergency dental services, such as extraction or pain management. The Coalition will continue to seek support to restore preventative dental benefits to this population and improve access through programs such as teledentistry.

Learn more at hawaiioralhealthcoalition.org.

Visit our website to learn more about our legislative priorities and join our coalitions to take action: hiphi.org/policy.