Youth advocates rally to ‘take down tobacco’ and end youth vaping epidemic
Nearly 100 Hawai‘i youth gathered at the State Capitol with a message for lawmakers – it’s time to take action against Big Tobacco.
To raise awareness, youth advocates have been updating a banner in front of the State Capitol to reflect the current death toll. According to the banner, 284 people have died since January 1 of this year. The youth advocates point towards research saying tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Hawai‘i with 1,400 people dying each year from a tobacco-related illness.
To combat this statistic, the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Youth Council is supporting several bills that they say would help end the youth vaping epidemic and reduce the toll of tobacco in Hawai‘i. Among these bills is HB 551, which would end the sale of flavored tobacco.
“The tobacco industry systematically targets youth with flavors like Rainbow Candy, Aloha Sun Fruit Punch, and POG to entice kids at early stages of their lives,” said Samantha Lay, a Junior at Roosevelt High School. “This has resulted in a rapid increase in addiction and rising demand for these products amongst my classmates and even kids as young as elementary school.”
The Youth Council is also supporting bills HB 537, SB 975, and SB 1147 that further regulate e-
cigarettes through taxation, licensing and permitting for retailers, restricting online sales, and allowing counties to pass their own regulations.
Representative Scot Matayoshi, who introduced HB 551 and HB 537, said, “Tobacco use was on a steep decline until vaping started introducing nicotine to our keiki through flavors like cotton candy and sour patch kids. Now we have a new generation of kids that are addicted to nicotine. We know how dangerous nicotine is to developing brains, and how it disrupts a student’s ability to focus and learn. We know this addiction follows a keiki through their life, and the negative health consequences from this addiction. It’s time we, the legislature, do something about it.”