LIHUE — A 67-year-old Koloa man smokes almost a whole pack of Kool Blues menthol cigarettes every day at home and during work breaks.
“It’s nice after a meal or in the morning with my cup of coffee,” Kawika said. “Otherwise, it’s something to do with my hands when I’m driving into town. It’s a habit, addiction basically to nicotine.”
Kawika, who wanted to keep his last name anonymous, has been smoking for 10 years after quitting for almost a decade. He hasn’t noticed any negative effects on his health, such as shortness of breath or heart conditions.
“Healthwise, I don’t think I’ve really noticed any change,” Kawika said. “I just know it would be better for me if I quit.”
Tobacco use accounts for nearly half a million deaths in the U.S. each year and is the leading cause of lung cancer, according to the American Lung Association.
“Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S., and Hawaii is no exception,” said Janet Berreman, Kauai district health officer. “Cigarette smoke is harmful to health, both for the smoker and for those exposed to smoke second-hand; there is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure.”
In Hawaii, there are about 1,400 deaths each year related to smoking, according to the Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention Program.
“Smoking causes heart and lung disease; children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to have asthma attacks, ear infections, and even SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome),” Berreman said.
In 2016, Kauai prohibited smoking in a vehicle when children the age of 12 or under were present.
WalletHub calculated the potential monetary losses — including the lifetime and annual costs of a cigarette pack per day, health care expenditures, income losses and other costs — brought on by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
The financial cost of smoking in Hawaii (1=Lowest):
w Out-of-pocket cost per smoker: $167,535 (Rank: 47th)
w Financial-opportunity cost per smoker: $1,407,368 (Rank: 47th)
w Health-care cost per smoker: $185,243 (Rank: 36th)
w Income loss per smoker: $293,666 (Rank: 47th)
w Other costs per smoker: $13,842 (Rank: 40th)
w Total cost over lifetime per smoker: $2,067,655
w Total cost per year per smoker: $40,542
Every year, Americans spend more than $300 billion, which includes both medical care and lost productivity. Some people will have to pay more depending on the state they live in.
“I don’t really factor it into my expense,” Kawika said. “It’s just something that I purchase when I
get low, so I don’t run out.”
His brand sells for about $10 a pack at the Koloa Texaco Station, and he spends about $300 each month.
“I’m thinking about trying to quit now partly because of the expense,” Kawika said. “If I stop, I’ll have more money.”
Cigarette manufacturing giant Philip Morris International recently released a smoke-free electronic product that heats tobacco, releasing nicotine-containing vapors. However, long-term effects have yet to be determined.
The Department of Health can provide information for individuals who want help with quitting smoking.