Over the past decades, tobacco prevention and control efforts in Hawai‘i have contributed to a significant decrease in residents who smoke. While Hawai‘i has the eighth lowest adult smoking rate in the nation, these improvements have not translated equally across all communities. A 2014 study conducted by the Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) found the smoking prevalence among Native Hawaiians is almost double the state smoking rate. In response, the DOH, Hawai‘i Tobacco Prevention and Control Advisory Board, Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i, and other community stakeholders selected Native Hawaiians as one of its priorities in the new Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Five-Year Strategic Plan.

The goal to eliminate the disproportionate health and economic burden of tobacco use will require strategies and programs tailored specifically to the Native Hawaiian smoker and other priority populations. By 2020, the DOH and partners aim to reduce the smoking rate among Native Hawaiians to 23 percent, or approximately 5,500 fewer smokers, through innovative strategies, including:

  • Partnering with Native Hawaiian-serving organizations to promote prevention, encourage cessation and provide resources
  • Developing culturally relevant counter-tobacco advertisements
  • Tailoring a prevention education curriculum
  • Providing culturally appropriate cessation interventions that target the whole family and whole body
  • Promoting use of the Hawai‘i Tobacco Quitline

Administered by DOH, the Hawai‘i Tobacco Quitline provides free phone-based or web-based coaching and free nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum or lozenges). Current smokers who are interested in quitting are encouraged to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit HawaiiQuitline.org to enroll in an online coaching program or for a list of community quit smoking programs.

For those currently on a journey to becoming smoke-free, remember these helpful tips the next time a craving hits:

  • Identify where and understand why you’re smoking. Understanding the root cause of smoking helps you address it or navigate away from it.
  • Write down the reasons why smoking is no longer necessary in your life. Acknowledging these reasons will keep you motivated to push past cravings, triggers and slips.
  • Keep busy by replacing smoking time with activities that add to your well-being, such as exercising, spending positive time with family, or eating more wholesome meals.
  • Stay motivated. It’s normal to attempt quitting more than once. It took months and years to build smoking as a habit; it will take dedication and support to quit for good.

Originally published in the Ka Wai Ola, March 2017