HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The House Health and Human Services Committee passed Senate Bill 2843 with amendments on Tuesday to significantly increase the state tobacco licensing fee.
The amended bill would bump up the annual fee for tobacco wholesalers and dealers from $2.50 to $500 — that's 200 times what it was before.
The measure would also raise the tax on cigarettes and little cigars from 16 cents each, to 22.5 cents each. That's the equivalent of $3.20 or $4.50 per pack.
"It's not about the state coffers getting more money," said HHS Chair John M. Mizuno, in a news release. "It's about saving over 1,400 lives lost each year to tobacco."
Hawaii is one of only two states that charge a wholesaler less than a retailer. The state Department of Heath agrees that the $500 annual bump matches up to national standards.
"Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States," Mizuno said. "It continues to be a problem in Hawaii, causing approximately 1,400 deaths per year among adults, and an estimated 21,000 children in Hawaii ... will ultimately die prematurely from smoking."
"Each year, smoking costs approximately $526 million in direct health care expenditures and $387 million in lost productivity in the State," Mizuno said.