Hawaii improves tobacco efforts
Hawaii's efforts to reduce youth access to tobacco products lifted the state's C grade in that area to a B in the American Lung Association's annual State of Tobacco Control report.
The state retained its 2006 A grades for Tobacco Control Program funding and smoke-free air and a B in the cigarette tax category.
Hawaii is one of only six states that funds tobacco control programs at levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Its total expenditures of $11,406,063 last year to bat- tle tobacco surpassed the CDC recommendation of $10,780,000 for the state, according to the national report.
The report card gave F's to 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for tobacco prevention and control funding.
Youth access data shows about 12.6 percent of Hawaii's youth population smokes, which exceeds a state goal to reduce smoking to 16 percent in that age group by 2010, the ALA of Hawaii said in a news release.
The national organization recommended a higher cigarette tax in Hawaii, but the state raised the tax Sept. 30 to $1.80 from $1.60 per pack and further increases are scheduled in the next four years.
ALA of Hawaii President Karen Lee said the lung association helped to pass an amendment in last year's Legislature to raise the cigarette tax in 20-cent increments through 2011 and distribute the tax revenue to programs to stop smoking.
The annual report card gave the federal government only D's and F's for measures to control tobacco.
Fewer than half of the states have laws to prevent secondhand smoke, and cigarette taxes are below the national average in 28 states and the District of Columbia, the report said.
"Now is the time for leaders at the federal, state and local levels to summon the political will to do what's right and finally shut the door on this country's tobacco epidemic," Bernadette Toomey, ALA president and chief executive officer, said in a statement about the report.
Preventable tobacco-related diseases kill more than 438,000 Americans annually, she pointed out.
Jean Evans, executive director of ALA Hawaii, said the 2006 law passed by the Legislature to prohibit smoking in indoor public places and neighboring areas "is a major advance in health quality and is worth protecting."
More than two dozen Hawaii entertainers are volunteering their time for an "ALAH Breathe Concert -- Clean Air for Everyone," at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Hawaii Theatre.
The fundraising event is aimed at supporting Hawaii's laws to protect people from secondhand smoke.