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Reduction in tobacco use results in $1 billion saved, yet work is not over

Two decades of tobacco use reduction results in $1 billion total health care savings in Hawai‘i, yet work is far from over

HONOLULU – The Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) today shared the results of 20 years of tobacco prevention and control policies and programs with an estimated total savings of $1 billion in health care costs to the state. By reducing the number of youth, adult, and pregnant smokers over the past two decades, Hawaiʻi saved $1 billion from 2000 to 2017. The analysis, conducted by DOH, showed $6.64 in direct health care costs was saved for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention.

“One billion dollars in cost savings is an impressive figure, but we cannot afford to lose sight of the lives that have yet to be saved,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “There is no time to waste when it comes to protecting our children and youth. We must do more. Without intervention, it is estimated that 54,000 of Hawaiʻi’s children today will become smokers by early adulthood.”

These latest findings are highlighted in department’s new publication, Hawaiʻi’s Tobacco Landscape: The Faces Behind the Figures. It features policy and program achievements from the Hawai‘i Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund (Trust Fund) since its inception in 1999, and spotlights the significant challenges to tobacco prevention and control that remain. 

Most adults begin tobacco-use before age 21, and quitting is difficult. The publication features stories of individuals who quit smoking with the help of programs funded through the Trust Fund. For example, Kalela Minnoch, is a single mom who started smoking at age 15 and has been tobacco free for 20 months after receiving help from the Hawaiʻi Tobacco Quitline. The Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) administers the Trust Fund, which supports the Hawai‘i Tobacco Quitline and 16 community tobacco cessation programs. 

While Hawai‘i ranks third lowest in the nation for smoking prevalence among average adults at 13.1 percent, there are serious disparities among at-risk groups. The state Tobacco Use Prevention & Control – 5 Year Strategic Plan focuses community efforts on priority populations that have not equally felt the decline in smoking prevalence. Native Hawaiians, people with lower socio-economic status, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), and people with behavioral health conditions continue to smoke at much higher rates.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates it takes smokers 12 to 14 attempts to quit smoking, a recent long-term study found it took smokers 30 or more attempts. This is an important message to healthcare providers to keep talking to their patients,” said Dr. Elizabeth Tam, pulmonologist and chair of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Advisory Board.   

Additionally, the publication shines a spotlight on the need to address the rapid rise of electronic smoking among youth. More than one-third of youth in a national survey (National Youth Tobacco Survey 2016) did not think e-cigarettes are harmful, and those who didn’t were more likely to use e-cigarettes. In Hawaiʻi, 25.5 percent of high school and 15.7 percent of middle school students use e-cigarettes, exposing them to dangerous chemicals such as nicotine and potential cancer-causing metals and solvents (Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2017).  

The publication features a timeline highlighting two decades of smoking policies in Hawai‘i that contributed to the $1 billion in healthcare savings. The timeline includes both county and state legislation spanning from 1997-2017.

“In spite of the gains resulting from these policies, there are important regulations that still do not exist. The rise and popularity of vaping among our youth is alarming. There is a need for standardized policies and regulatory legislation to stop electronic smoking device use,” stated Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of the Hawai‘i Public Health Institute and its program, Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i. 

To download Hawaiʻi’s Tobacco Landscape: The Faces Behind the Figures, visit  

“Big Tobacco” Targets LGBTQA Community

Who targeted the LGBT community with “Project SCUM”? If you guessed “Big Tobacco,” then sadly, you are correct.

October 11 is the start of PRIDE week — the perfect time to empower yourself with the facts about tobacco and the LGBTQA community — the perfect time to stand up against Big Tobacco’s targeting, exploitation and undermining tactics to profit by endangering the health and well-being of this strong group.

Did you know that individuals in the LGBTQA community are more than twice as likelyto smoke as their heterosexual/straight counterparts? Big Tobacco knows this, and works every day to make sure this dangerous trend continues.

It all started with “Project SCUM (Sub-Culture Urban Marketing),” a marketing plan created by one of the largest tobacco companies, targeting the LGBTQA community and homeless people to boost its sales. Based on its own records, the tobacco industry has been targeting the LGBT community for decades in subtle and overt ways. For example, “in 1991, a Wall Street Journal headline trumpeted, ‘overcoming a deep-rooted reluctance, more firms advertise to [the] gay community.’ The story called gays and lesbians “a dream market” and focused on the tobacco industry’s courtship of LGBT media giants such as Genre.” 1

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Hawai‘i Residents Are Having a Change of Heart

As World Heart Day draws near, it’s time to recognize the many things Hawai‘i residents are doing in their lives to change their heart health! From eating more seafood rich in the Omega-3s (great for your heart!), to staying active (surfing, hiking, walking, jogging, etc.), to quitting smoking or vaping, Hawai‘i residents have many opportunities to take action and improve their heart health.

On Friday, September 29th, 2017 we will all celebrate “World Heart Day” with the theme “Share the Power.” It’s a day when people across the state and around the world acknowledge and embrace this mantra:

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What overlooked habit could be taking years off the lives of keiki here in Hawai‘i?

Here on the islands, we protect our ‘ohana, especially when it comes to caring for our keiki. In the car, for example, we make sure they have the proper car and booster seats, and we ensure they’re buckled up – because this helps protect them.

Still, for Hawai‘i parents with friends and family members who smoke, there is another danger that’s often overlooked – smoking in the car. Secondhand smoke exposure contributes to more than

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Top five tobacco threats Hawai‘i residents don’t know

With “World No Tobacco Day” coming up on Wed., May 31st, it’s time to take a closer look at what’s going on with the tobacco industry in Hawai‘i and around the world. The theme this year is:

“Tobacco – a Threat to Development.”

Tobacco isn’t just a danger to those who smoke or vape. It remains a vicious societal issue – a worldwide menace of epic proportions – perpetuating death, disease, poverty, pollution, deforestation and more.

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A Focus on Smoking Habits of Hawaii’s Filipinos

In the United States, cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death, but surprisingly, it is a health issue that continues to affect ethnic minorities at a disproportionate rate, including Filipinos.

Whether we look at smoking habits of Filipinos in Hawai‘i, on the mainland, or in the Philippines, it is clear that the impact of tobacco use among Filipinos has broad cultural reaches.

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New Strategies Proposed to Help Native Hawaiian Communities Become Smoke-Free

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.

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