The islands rank high
in tobacco prevention

A report by public health groups
rates the state fifth overall

Star-Bulletin staff

Hawaii jumped from 27th place in 2002 to fifth place in this year's national ranking of states for tobacco prevention and education spending, according to a report released by five leading public health organizations.

According to "Show Us the Money: An Update on the States' Allocation of the Tobacco Settlement Dollars," Hawaii is one of the leading states in increased allocations for tobacco prevention -- to $10.3 million this year from $4.2 million last year.

Sponsors are the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and the SmokeLess States National Tobacco Policy Initiative.

The report's release was timed to the opening of many legislatures considering raids on tobacco settlement money to meet budget shortfalls.

Peter Fisher, assistant director of Advocacy for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, attributed Hawaii's dramatic leap in rankings to the dedication and commitment of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund and state Health Department.

"It is critically important that the commitment be maintained in the years to come," he said. "Investments made now will save money and lives in the future."

Hawaii's tobacco settlement funds are a target again this year to offset deficits, said the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii.

Use of money from the Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund and Department of Health led to the hike in the state's ranking, the coalition said.

It said Hawaii's spending on tobacco prevention amounts to 9 percent of the payments collected annually for the master settlement agreement. A wide variety of tobacco prevention and education efforts are supported, including more than $1 million in grants to various organizations involved with the issue.

"We need the help and support of lawmakers to ensure that these programs remain intact and Hawaii's MSA funds are used appropriately for tobacco prevention and education," said Clifford Chang, director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii.

Dr. Chiyome Fukino, Gov. Linda Lingle's nominee for state health director, said Hawaii is "on course to reach our goals to prevent youth from starting to smoke, to help adults and youth to quit, and to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke."

About 24.5 percent of Hawaii's high school students smoke, and 2,700 kids become daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely, the coalition said. Smoking-related health-care costs here total $263 million a year, it said.

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