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State could elbow therapists out of massage ads

By Sam Eifling / Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:57 p.m. HST, Feb 11, 2014



Massage, spa and escort ads would be restricted under a bill state lawmakers are considering.

The bill targets ads that use the words "massage," ''relaxation," ''escort," ''spa" or "body rub." It says those ads cannot include physical descriptions or photos of the therapist except for the person's hands, wrists and forearms.

Supporters of the bill tell lawmakers that human traffickers exploit women and children as sex workers. Those supporters testified that suggestive photos and language in ads amount to thinly veiled solicitations for prostitution.

Honolulu media commonly carry ads for relaxation and massage services. They can be found online, as well as tucked in the back of the local daily newspaper's sports section. Ads from recent Sunday editions of the Star-Advertiser show photos of young women smiling beside slogans promising "Beautiful New Girls" and "Very Friendly Girl." Set below those are ads flogging adult DVDs.

The measure, Senate Bill 2376, faces obstacles.

Sen. Rosalyn Baker, a Democrat representing south and west Maui and the chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, said in a hearing Tuesday the state's attorney general's office has said the bill may be too restrictive under the First Amendment.

"I have a lot of high-end spas in my district, and they're concerned about what they might be able to advertise," she said. She added that she wants to see the measure "stay alive."

The lone objection to the bill raised Tuesday came from Sen. Sam Slom, the Senate's lone Republican, representing Hawaii Kai.

"I think there are a number of significant concerns with the First Amendment but also the kinds of decisions about advertising left to the state," Slom said. His was the lone vote in committee against advancing the bill to the Judiciary Committee, the bill's next destination.






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