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E-Cigs in Hawaii: A Primer

Just a week ago on the Big Island of Hawaii, e-cigarettes were banned at beaches, County parks, public buildings, and anywhere else smoking is banned. The County Council vote was a close 5-4, a good indication of the e-cig’s increasing popularity and the ensuing concern over its potential hazards.

I’ve been a cigarette smoker for all of my adult life. The insidious tobacco industry got its hooks into me when I was just a wee lad, really, yet I’ve always known that smoking is a filthy, nervous, and dangerous affectation. I’ve never tried to quit, although I’ve always wanted to. I’m not so dim as to ignore the facts. I’m just an addict.

So when the e-cigarette entered the market, I had hope that it might be a way to stop doing something that, statistically, is likely to kill me. The commercials with that marginally-famous guy from some old TV show or lame movie standing up for nicotine addiction and peddling an e-cig brand in the mainstream made me think that e-cigs might just be a way to quit smoking.

Aside from a few curious puffs of a friend’s e-cig, I haven’t made the switch from my brand. But I have seen that e-cigs aren’t any less offensive to nonsmokers in Hawaii than their primitive, combustive progenitors.

No e-smoking sign

Cigarette smoking has been restricted in Hawaii workplaces and public spaces for years. A Honolulu City Council ban on smoking at public beaches went into effect a year ago after, among other efforts, an effective campaign that decried the many thousands of butts collected by good people at beaches around the state. 10,000 cigarette butts were collected in a single morning when a local high school and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii joined forces for a cleanup at Waikiki Beach. Waikiki Beach!

It was a shameful state of affairs. Even as a smoker, I supported the ban.

Hawaii is the healthiest state in America. Only California has a lower percentage of adults who smoke (this is possibly because the smog is enough for its residents). But cigarette smoking is socially acceptable in Hawaii, provided the smoker respects the law and the sensibility of the nonsmokers around them.

E-cigarettes, however, seem to carry a stigma of their own. Whereas tobacco smoking has undeniably hazardous health effects, the science is still out on e-cigs. The stigma e-cigs carry is more along the line that the user is gaming the system to get away with something that has long been agreed to be offensive, like political “Super PACs” or Crocs.

The State of Hawaii banned the use of e-cigarettes in state buildings this past October. Many if not most businesses don’t allow it, nor do the airlines that service Hawaii airports. E-cigarette users draw curious and often derisive stares from those around them in places where actual cigarettes are banned. Hawaii visitors who use the e-cigarette will do well to mind the fact that people in Hawaii don’t regard the habit any differently than they do cigarette smoking.

Posted by: Jamie Winpenny on Jan 23, 2015