Hawaii is One of Few States to Make Strides in Preventing Tobacco-Caused Disease and Death

(January 19, 2012)

Hawaii is One of Few States to Make Strides in Preventing Tobacco-Caused Disease and Death

Honolulu, HI — Hawaii maintained its efforts to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease according to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2012 report.

The Lung Association’s annual report card monitors progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels and assigns grades to assess whether laws are protecting citizens from the terrible health burden caused by tobacco use.

Hawaii is one of only four states who received all passing grades on their report card. They received an “A” for smokefree air, an “A” for cigarette tax, a “B” for tobacco prevention and control spending, and a “D” for cessation coverage. Hawaii is one of very few states that accepted its responsibility in 2011 to enact much-needed laws and policies and provided funding for programs that save lives and reduce tobacco-related disease.

“Hawaii can maintain their solid grades by maintaining funding for tobacco prevention activities. The cessation benchmark is a high one. We could improve our grade in that category by ensuring access to all forms of counseling for our Medicaid population as well as removing all barriers such as prior authorization,” said Debbie Odo, Tobacco Control Manager for the American Lung Association in Hawaii. “We are doing well, but there is still work to be done in Hawaii to fight the leading cause of preventable death.”

In 2011, the Lung Association joined efforts to pass a resolution to address and restrict tobacco advertising. This proposal was led by “REAL: Hawaii’s Youth Movement Speak Out Against the Tobacco Industry,” and its intent was to create tobacco-free living as the social norm. Despite the great efforts of many youth and advocates, the resolution did not pass.

On July 1, 2011, Hawaii’s cigarette tax was increased by 20 cents as scheduled by legislation approved in previous years. This increases Hawaii’s tax to $3.20 per pack, which is currently the nation’s fourth highest cigarette tax. 

“Hawaii made a conscious choice to put the health and happiness of its citizens ahead of the tobacco industry’s lobbying agenda,” said Lorraine Leslie, State Director for the American Lung Association in Hawaii. “It requires leadership to take that smart stand, especially in tough financial times.” 

In 2012, the American Lung Association in Hawaii will continue educational outreach on the importance of funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs. As other states have shown, reducing prevention funding can lead to higher smoking rates. Countless studies have shown that quitting smoking is the single most important step a person can take to improve the length and quality of their life.

Although youth and adult smoking rates declined slowly in the past decade, the decline has been inconsistent. Tobacco use continues to reap a devastating toll. The adult smoking rate in Hawaii is 14.5 percent. Tobacco causes an estimated 1,163 deaths in Hawaii annually and costs the state’s economy $686,772,000 in health costs and lost productivity.

In its tenth annual State of Tobacco Control report, the Lung Association graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia on four proven policies to save lives and cut healthcare costs. These are tobacco prevention and control program funding; smokefree air laws; cigarette tax rates; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, to help smokers quit.

Six states received all “F’s.” They were Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. No state received straight “A’s.”

Many states regressed in 2011. No state passed a strong smokefree air law, and Nevada weakened its existing law. Washington virtually eliminated a tobacco prevention and quit-smoking program that was previously a national model. For the first year in recent memory, no state increased its tobacco tax significantly, and 13 states and the District of Columbia significantly cut or completely eliminated already meager funding of tobacco control and prevention programs.
“Our annual report spells out best practices for success at both the state and federal levels,” said Leslie. “The report card shows where we pass, and where more work is needed. Further failure isn’t an option, because our end goal is removing tobacco’s chokehold on America’s health, and that’s a life-and-death matter.” 

Leslie noted that it is important to remember that the grades reflect how state laws measure up to the best in the nation or by goals set by federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Grades do not reflect the efforts of local and state programs working to reduce tobacco use.

About the American Lung Association in Hawaii
The American Lung Association in Hawaii is a non-profit, voluntary public health organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease in Hawaii. Our programs focus on the areas of asthma, clean air, tobacco prevention and lung disease.
For more information about the American Lung Association in Hawaii or to support the work it does, call: (808) 537-5966 or visit: www.ala-hawaii.org.