Hawaii had the fifth-lowest rate of adult cigarette smoking in the nation last year, down from its third-lowest ranking in 1999, according to a government survey released yesterday.
Isles fifth lowest in
State officials express optimism
despite the national ranking drop
By Leila Fujimori
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2000 survey, 19.7 percent of adults over 18 years old smoke in Hawaii, compared with 18.6 percent in 1999.
According to the CDC telephone survey, Utah had the lowest rate of smoking among adults with 12.9 percent, while Kentucky had the highest rate at 30 percent. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the country, according to the CDC.
Debbie Odo, director of tobacco control for the American Lung Association of Hawaii, blamed the state's drop in ranking on a significant increase in smoking by young adults. Many clubs that cater to young adults in Hawaii have encouraged them to smoke by passing out cigarettes, she said.
Still, Hawaii's comparatively low ranking for 2000 was a positive sign for one Health Department official.
"We've been living, in many cases, off the good lifestyles of some of the older people, and couple that with the state's active role in tobacco prevention and control," said Julian Lipsher, director of the state Department of Health's Tobacco Prevention and Education Project.
Lipsher attributes the state's success to the prevention campaign, merchant education regarding sales to minors, and a media effort to counter the influence of the tobacco industry.
Honolulu was one of six metropolitan areas of 99 surveyed where there was a significant gap between the prevalence of male and female smokers. The percentage of male smokers was 22.9 percent, vs. 15.5 percent for women. The statewide average was 22.9 percent for men and 16.5 percent for women.
Nationwide, the percentage of men who smoke was 24.4 percent, vs. 21.2 percent for women.
Douglas Yee, president of the American Lung Association of Hawaii, said there is a concern that the tobacco industry has targeted females in their ads.
The Health Department and Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union has campaigned to prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
The Honolulu City Council gave its preliminary approval Wednesday to ban smoking in restaurants but allow it in outside areas of the establishments.