Adult smokers in Hawaii have declined to about 18.4 percent of the population -- the second-lowest rate in the country, after Utah.
By Helen Altonn
But some alarming health and economic issues are emphasized in state tobacco prevention and control plans.
Nearly 31 percent of smokers are women ages 18 to 24, compared to 25 percent of men in that age category.
"That's a very bad sign," says attorney Margery Bronster, who heads the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund Advisory Board.
In an extensive study of tobacco use here, she said, "One of the things we found is there are some populations really out of whack with the rest of the community in terms of smoking rates." She noted that more than 25 percent of Hawaiian women and more than 25 percent of Filipino males smoke.
Only 16 percent of Maui and Kauai residents smoke, but 25 percent of adult men on Kauai smoke compared to 8 percent of the island's women. Nearly 22 percent of both men and women smoke on the Big Island.
About 1,300 deaths (16 percent of all island deaths per year) are attributed to smoking-related diseases, Bronster said. "It's huge.
"So, though we have relatively low overall smoking rates, some of the trends are troubling. And the fact that youth smoking is so high is troubling, because once they're hooked, it's very hard to quit."
Communities and groups with high smoking rates are targeted in a statewide plan recommending comprehensive tobacco control strategies in the next five years.
A one-year plan, consistent with goals of the five-year plan, also is proposed to provide control and education program grants from a tobacco trust fund.
The public was invited to make suggestions and comments at a meeting from noon until 2 p.m. today at the Blaisdell Center, Honolulu, and at 5:30 p.m. at Kealakehe Intermediate School in Kona on the Big Island.
Other meetings are scheduled at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at Hilo Medical Center, and 9 a.m. Saturday at Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center, Kaunakakai.
Earlier meetings were held at Kahaluu, Waimanalo and Waianae on Oahu, and on Kauai and Maui.
Bronster said the statewide plan is designed to substantially reduce tobacco use in Hawaii by coordinating all organizations concerned with the tobacco battle.
When the plan is finished, the foundation will request proposals from organizations for tobacco prevention funds.
Some money will be used to expand education efforts, some to expand existing tobacco prevention programs and some focusing specifically on youth programs, Bronster said. "We're also looking for people to come up with their own innovative suggestions."
Both plans may be seen on Hawaii Community Foundation's Web site: www.hcf-hawaii.org
The foundation administers a trust fund established for tobacco education, prevention and cessation with 25 percent of funds received under settlement of a 1997 suit against the tobacco industry.
The state expects to have a total of $4.5 million this year from all sources for tobacco prevention, including $1 million from initial trust fund earnings, Bronster said.
Hawaii ranks 10th in the nation in using money from the multi-state tobacco settlement to protect kids from tobacco, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
But it still hasn't reached levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for tobacco prevention - between $10.78 million and $23.45 million.
Rather than spend a slug of money at once, Hawaii's legislation is aimed at addressing the problem over time by investing money in a trust fund, said Julian Lipsher, manager of the state Health Department's tobacco program.