LIHU‘E — The American Lung Association recently released its annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, giving Hawai‘i various grades for five categories and calling for proven tobacco-control policies in light of the worsening youth-vaping epidemic in 2019.
The 18th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use.
In the report, Hawaii received a D in the category of Funding for State Tobacco-Prevention Programs, an A in the category of Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws, Cs in the categories of Level of State Tobacco Taxes and Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco, and a B in the category of Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21.
This year’s report finds Hawai‘i earned mixed grades on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, according to ALA.
Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. In the announcement of the report, ALA called on Hawai‘i officials to support cessation services and “clear the market of flavors to save lives.”
“The need for Hawai‘i to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is more urgent than ever, with the youth-vaping epidemic continuing its alarming rise to 27.5 percent, or more than one in four high school students,” ALA said in a release about the report.
“This is a staggering 135 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use in just the past two years, and close to three million more kids started vaping in that time period, setting them up for a lifetime of addiction.”
“In Hawai‘i alone, there are more than 140,000 current smokers,” said Carrie Nyssen, senior director of advocacy for the ALA in Hawai‘i.
“And with the youth-vaping epidemic still rising, we may have squandered an opportunity to make the current generation of kids the first tobacco-free generation. Tobacco use is a serious addiction and, working together, we can do more to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”
The ALA encourages Hawai‘i to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control,” and this year’s report noted the need to focus on increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit-smoking programs.
“Despite Hawai‘i receiving over $154 million from tobacco-settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funding for tobacco control is just over $6.3 million, just 57.5 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit,” said Nyssen.
Hawaii has the highest reported electronic cigarette use rate among middle schoolers and the second highest vaping rate among high school students in the nation, just behind Colorado. The ALA strongly supports the “Flavors Hook Kids” campaign and urges the state Legislature to follow Massachusetts’ lead and pass comprehensive laws eliminating all flavored tobacco products in 2020.
“’State of Tobacco Control’ 2020 provides an important roadmap on how states like Hawai‘i and the federal government can put in place the policies proven to have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Now is the time for lawmakers in Hawai‘i to end their failure to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Nyssen.
The question remains, will 2020 be the year that public health is prioritized over tobacco-product manufacturers so that another generation is spared the addiction to dangerous tobacco products? the ALA asks.
As the result of successful lawsuits filed by the ALA and several public-health partners, the federal Food and Drug Administration will be required to take several important and long-overdue actions to protect the public health from tobacco products in 2020.
These include finalizing graphic warning labels on all cigarette packs by March 15, and requiring all e-cigarette, and most cigar, hookah, pipe and other manufacturers of deemed products to submit applications to FDA by May 12, 2020 to remain on the market in the U.S.