Youth Vaping, Flavored Tobacco Products Threaten Progress on Policies to Reduce Tobacco Use in Hawai‘i

New report reveals Hawai‘i’s tobacco control successes over past 20 years, and outlines path to end tobacco use and save lives.

The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, shows significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that Hawai‘i had mixed progress on passing policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. 

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs. 

Here in Hawai‘i in the last 20 years, lawmakers have made significant strides to reduce the burden of tobacco, like creating comprehensive smokefree laws across the state, however, there is more work to be done. The smoking rate is still 11.6%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 23.2%. For several years, tobacco control advocates have tried and failed to advance legislation that would restrict flavored tobacco products, which has been shown to addict kids. 

“While we have seen considerable progress in Hawai‘i, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking over 1,400 estimated lives each year,” said Pedro Haro, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Hawai‘i. “Unfortunately, with the lack of state regulations on e-cigarettes and restrictions on tobacco flavors that addict youth, we are seeing a recession of the gains we had made over the last decades of tobacco control.” 

Hawai‘i’s Grades 

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. Hawai‘i received the following grades:

1.    Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade C
2.    Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
3.    Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade C
4.    Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
5.    Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products  – Grade F 

This year’s report noted the need for Hawai‘i policymakers to focus on ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and over 80% of those kids use flavored e-cigarettes. In addition, menthol cigarettes continue to be the major cause of tobacco-related death and disease in communities of color. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help address the disproportionate impact of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have on many communities, including Native Hawaiians, Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans and youth.  

“Kids follow the flavors, so ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Hawai‘i is key to ending youth tobacco use. It’s crucial that this legislative session lawmakers adopt policies to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, across Hawai‘i,” said Haro.

Federal Grades Overview

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas:

•    Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D)
•    Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D)
•    Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F)
•    Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A)
•    Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*)

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute.

“Ending youth addiction to smoking tobacco and vaping begins with education and understanding. This year’s State of Tobacco Control report helps make it clear, we can make progress, but until we stop Big Tobacco from exploiting teens, especially Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, that progress will be slow and difficult,” said Josh Ching, member of the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Hawaii’s Youth Council, and a Senior at Kamehameha Schools. “That is why it’s so important that we work as one with social justice advocates, local schools and our elected officials to pass strong legislation to finally end the youth vaping epidemic before it steals even more lives far too soon.”

For more information, contact:

Hawaii Media Contact

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