Guest Blogger: Don Weisman, Hawaii Government Relations Director
Thanks to AHA You’re The Cure advocates, SB 2194, the bill that would require Hawaii birthing centers to perform a pulse oximetry screening to check for critical congenital heart defects prior to discharge, continues to move toward final passage. The bill was passed by the House Finance Committee on April 3 with no major changes to the pulse oximetry screening section (a second unrelated section was added to the bill during the committee hearing on which the AHA took no position). The bill now heads to the House Floor for a vote before it moves presumably to a conference committee where differences between the House and Senate version of the bill will be worked out. If agreement can be achieved there, the bill will move to the Governor for final passage into law.
The AHA is also supporting two other tobacco-control related bills which continue to advance. SB2495 would restrict the use of electronic cigarettes to places where only regular cigarettes are allowed, thereby protecting non-smokers from being involuntarily exposed to the nicotine and other particles and chemicals emitted as part of e-cigarette aerosol. SB 2496 would increase the tax on “other” tobacco products (all tobacco products other than cigarettes) to a rate of 85% of wholesale cost. Other tobacco products are currently under-taxed in relation to cigarettes making them more appealing to youths. The CDC has reported a sharp uptake in usage of those products by youths as cigarette prices have increased. Increasing taxes has been proven to reduce usage by youths. An as yet undetermined portion of the revenue from the tax increase would be earmarked for the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund to be used by community programs to reduce tobacco consumption.