It has been a good year for health in Maui!

The Maui County Code is being updated by Maui County Council to be consistent with state law, which includes electronic smoking devices (ESDs), more commonly known as e-cigarettes or vapes, under the smoke-free workplaces law. Including ESDs in the smoking definition helps to protect our residents and visitors from the harmful effects of secondhand aerosols emitted by ESDs in the same way that our clean-air laws protect people from secondhand smoke.  

Earlier this year, the Council also passed a law prohibiting smoking and vaping in a vehicle when a minor is present within the County of Maui. The public, especially the students involved in that movement, were unequivocal about the importance of including ESDs in the law to protect young people from secondhand aerosol exposure in such a small space. Because our County Code does not include ESDs in the definition of smoking, the bill had to be written with careful language to include them in the specific subsection being added to the code. At that time, Councilmember Elle Cochran proposed that the smoking definition be updated to include ESDs,… the bill currently before the council will do just that.  

On November 20th, the Policy, Economic Development, and Agriculture Committee heard the proposed bill and all related public testimony. The Maui, Molokai, Lāna’i Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i partnered with Blue Zones Project Central Maui and Brooke Holderbaum, a teacher with Kamehameha High School, to facilitate youth involvement at the committee meeting that day. Fourteen Kamehameha High students were in attendance with three delivering oral testimony in support of the bill. An additional student from Baldwin High, who is working with Blue Zones on his senior project to promote vaping education to his peers, also delivered passionate and articulate oral testimony in strong support of the updated smoking definition. These kids spoke of the prevalence of vaping among their peers, and how important it is to begin to shift the social norm around ESD use.

Councilmember Don Guzman organized his son’s class to attend the committee meeting as well, with about 20 students from Emmanuel Lutheran Intermediate further increasing youth turnout. Two students from this group also delivered oral testimony. It was inspiring to watch all of the students be engaged in the process and speak up for what they believe in.

Following testimony, the committee voted unanimously in favor of the proposed update. The bill has two more readings in front of the full council and is expected to move forward and become law on December 21, 2018. Once passed, the Maui, Molokai, and Lāna‘i Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i will have seen three Maui County tobacco control policies passed in 2018. It has been a busy year, but we have much to celebrate and to be thankful for as this year comes to a close.

Unfortunately, the proposed update to the smoking definition will not apply to our county tobacco-free beaches and parks law, since that language falls within the Parks and Recreation chapter of the Maui County Code rather than the chapter related to smoking. The first item on our agenda for 2019 is to carry this momentum forward and update our tobacco-free beaches and parks law to include ESDs as well — stay tuned! 

For more information on Maui’s work to tackle vaping and tobacco use, contact Katie Folio at katie@hiphi.org.