Hawaii Stands Out Nationally as One of Few States to Make Strides in Preventing Tobacco-Caused Disease and Death

(January 16, 2013)

Hawaii Stands Out Nationally as One of Few States to Make Strides in Preventing Tobacco-Caused Disease and Death
New American Lung Association Report Follows Money Trail to See How Tobacco Industry Addicts Kids

Honolulu, Hawaii [EMBARGOED UNTIL 5 a.m. (EST), January 16, 2013] — Hawaii maintained its efforts to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease according to the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2013” report.

The Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report tracks annual progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.

The 11th annual report shows how money is often at the root of the leading cause of preventable death, as state and federal policymakers are failing to battle a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry.

The National Institute on Money in State Politics released a report today in conjunction with “State of Tobacco Control 2013” called “Big Tobacco Wins Tax Battles,” revealing preliminary data that tobacco manufacturers and retailers gave $53.4 million to state candidates for office, political parties and to oppose tobacco-related ballot measures during the 2011-2012 election cycle. This figure includes spending over $46 million to defeat California’s initiative to increase the cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack. Tobacco manufacturers and retailers gave significant amounts of money to candidates in the following states: California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and Missouri.

“We know fighting back against Big Tobacco can be effective if we utilize our annual tobacco settlement funds and tobacco taxes to support statewide tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs,” said Lorraine Leslie, Hawaii Director. “If states begin to invest in tobacco prevention programs, youth tobacco use could be cut in half in just six years, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.”

Hawaii received the following grades for 2012:

Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding: C
Smokefree Air: A
Cigarette Tax: A
Cessation Coverage: C*

*Due to current data on tobacco cessation coverage for state employees being unavailable, Hawaii was graded based on cessation coverage under Medicaid and quitline investment per smoker only.

Amidst an overall lackluster year for nationwide tobacco control efforts, Hawaii stood out by successfully blocking a legislative measure that would have allowed smoking again in bars and nightclubs. Polling showed that an overwhelming majority (85 percent) of Hawaii residents supported maintaining the strong smokefree workplace law.

“While we are proud of our accomplishments in this past year, especially in regards to protecting Hawaii’s smokefree workplace law, there is still much work that needs to be done,” said Leslie.

The Lung Association will continue to advocate for funding for Hawaii’s successful tobacco prevention and control programs, which include Hawaii’s Tobacco Quitline, media and public awareness campaigns and community interventions.

No state, including Hawaii, earned above a C for its efforts to help tobacco users quit.
“We’re simply still not doing enough to help tobacco users in Hawaii quit,” added Leslie.

Each year, 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure. Tobacco causes an estimated 1,163 deaths in Hawaii annually and costs its economy over $686 million in healthcare costs and lost productivity, a tremendous burden we can ill afford.

Nationally, the American Lung Association is advocating for states to include a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit in the Essential Health Benefit for state health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion plans.

Unfortunately, the federal government missed a golden opportunity to give tobacco users the tools they need to quit by failing to define a comprehensive cessation benefit for insurance plans operating in state exchanges. This will lead to inconsistent coverage at the state level.

Seventy percent of smokers want to quit smoking. The Lung Association believes all smokers deserve access to the help they need to quit. The one major success for the federal government in 2012 was its wildly successful Tips from Former Smokers advertising campaign, which featured real people living with smoking-caused diseases and spurred a dramatic rise in smokers seeking help to quit.

States and the federal government have also failed to raise taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes, which according to the Government Accountability Office, has led to “significant market shifts” – including increases in cigar use. Youth, people who are low income, Hispanics and LGBT who smoke cigars are more likely to smoke flavored cigars, according to a recent study in Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Each day, roughly 3,000 youth smoke a cigar for the first time.

“Keeping pace with Big Tobacco will require Hawaii’s policymakers to continue their commitment to fight tobacco use and adequately fund our state’s tobacco prevention and control programs,” said Leslie. “We’ll continue our work until we eradicate tobacco as a leading cause of death and chronic disease.”

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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 air quality, tobacco prevention and cessation and lung health.

For more information about the American Lung Association in Hawaii or to support the work it does, call (808) 537-5966 or visit www.lung.org/hawaii.