Teen group encourages no sale of tobacco today

KAPA‘A — For three hours this afternoon in Kapa‘a tobacco users will be encouraged by members of REAL, a group of Hawaiian youth exposing the tobacco industry, to avoid purchasing any tobacco products.

REAL will be holding a “No Sale Day” today in Kapa‘a as a way to spread the message to the public about the advertising tactics used by tobacco companies.

“It is a day, or a period of time, where community members are asked to stop buying tobacco products and stores to refrain from selling,” said Valerie Saiki of Tobacco Free Kauai.

Seventeen shops and stores from Wailua to the north end of the strip in Kapa‘a have been asked in a letter written by Saiki to support the “No Sale Day.”

“We want them to know that this is an event to not harm their business, or single out smokers,” Saiki said. “We’re just trying to get the message out.”

Saiki and some REAL team members will also be handing out informative flyers urging youth to “Stay in Control” and not give in to the advertising tactics of tobacco companies.

“REAL is not anti-smoker, we are anti-industry,” Saiki said. “We want the youth to get the right information so they won’t be misled.”

According to Saiki, each year, roughly 3,100 youth in Hawai‘i under the age of 18 try their first cigarette.

“It is REAL’s hope that a ‘No Sale Day’ event will demonstrate to the community, especially the youth, that cigarettes are harmful,” Saiki said. “And although integrated in many of our lives, does not mean it’s too late to make the healthiest decisions for ourselves and our future.”

World No Tobacco Day was May 31, but REAL wanted to wait until today to have a stronger message to Kaua‘i youth.

“REAL wanted to have a strong message this year, so Kaua‘i’s REAL teens decided to hold the ‘No Sale Day’ on the last day of school (today) to help spread the message, especially to Kaua‘i’s youth before summer vacation started,” Saiki said.

Austin Rita-Kaui, a 10th-grader at Kapaa High School and a leader on REAL’s statewide board, said the ‘No Sale Day’ is important because the community needs to be aware of the marketing strategies of the tobacco companies.

“Tobacco companies target particular groups of people because of their race, gender or personal interests,” Rita-Kaui said. “But the company doesn’t care who they sell to, as long as they make profits from the customers.”

The tobacco companies don’t think about how their advertising of tobacco products hurt people and their families, Rita-Kaui added.

“As a member of REAL, I want to educate the community so that youth won’t be fooled into thinking tobacco is harmless and fun and they could quit any time they want to,” Rita-Kaui said. “If we could invite representatives from the top cigarette companies to witness our ‘No Sale Day,’ I would hope it would change their attitude about promoting tobacco products, especially to youth and young adults.”

REAL was started in 2000 by 15 teenagers in Hawai‘i as a way to expose and stop “the tobacco industry’s manipulation of our generation.”

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or rgehrlein@kauaipubco.com

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