LIHU‘E — Valerie Saiki of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i said the sign-waving taking place along Rice Street fronting the Historic County Building on Monday was a continuation of a rally held at the State Capitol on O‘ahu earlier in the day.
Organized as part of Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action, the Capitol rally with youth, health advocates and elected officials brought awareness to the youth-vaping epidemic, with coordinated sign-waving events on Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island to build support for smoking-prevention initiatives.
“Vaping products continue to remain unregulated in Hawai‘i, and more and more kids who never smoked are trying it for the first time,” said first lady Dawn Amano-Ige in a release.
“We must continue supporting the work that the Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Youth Council is doing. With all of your help, we can make sure this generation becomes the first nicotine-free generation for all time to come. I know that we can get there,” said Amano-Ige.
Holly Taguma, the Kaua‘i representative to the Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Youth Council, said the sign-waving focused on two of the six remaining bills that would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, in Hawai‘i. These bills are Senate Bill 3118 and House Bill 1570.
State Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who sponsored SB2278 to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes, said there are six tobacco-prevention and control bills still alive at the Legislature.
“Whether it’s e-cigarettes or whether it’s traditional cigars or cigarettes, we need to do everything that we can to step up and make sure there is no more addiction in our state that comes from tobacco,” she said.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green cited numbers of youth currently using e-cigarettes in Hawai‘i, including the fact that eight in 10 youth who use tobacco start with a flavored product.
“On Kaua‘i, those numbers are higher than the state numbers,” Saiki said. “I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but after conducting a survey, I can email you the exact numbers. It’s just higher than the state figures.”
“We know how dangerous nicotine is to developing brains. We know how addictive it is,” said state Rep. Scot Matayoshi, who introduced HB1570. “And yet we stand here as a Legislature not banning flavored products. This is a long-term health consequence for our entire society, and the students here fighting for this ban today are the ones that are going to be stuck with the bill, and stuck with the health consequences.”
Saiki, who was present at the Capitol rally and press conference, said along with the speeches, the youth council set up a slipper display on the State Capitol front lawn to demonstrate the toll of tobacco in Hawai‘i.
“The goal is to collect 21,000 pairs of slippers,” Taguma said. “That represents 21,000 deaths of young people alive today who will die from a tobacco-related illness if smoking rates do not decline. The slipper donations will be donated to the houseless and other at-risk youth.”
Dr. Bryan Mih, a pediatrician at Kapi‘olani Medical Center, is concerned about the high rates of e-cigarette use among Hawai‘i’s young people.
“Once young people are addicted to nicotine, it is extremely difficult to quit,” Mih said. “By eliminating these flavored tobacco products from Hawai‘i, we have the chance to improve the health of many, especially that of our keiki.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.
Source: The Garden Island