Tobacco kills
1,100 in isles

The annual death toll lends
a note of urgency to a conference
today on smoking issues

More than 70 percent of Hawaii residents, and nearly half of smokers, believe all restaurants and bars should be smoke-free, according to a report released today on tobacco use in Hawaii.

About 70 percent of adults also say retail outlets should be required to have licenses to sell tobacco, the state Department of Health report said.

Data presented in "Smoking and Tobacco Use in Hawaii: Facts, Figures and Trends" will be discussed today at a smoking-issues conference for health care professionals, community leaders and government officials at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The report compiles available data about tobacco use.

The most vulnerable residents -- the poor, educationally disadvantaged, women and youth -- are targeted by tobacco industry advertising, and Hawaii's tobacco settlement money must be kept intact to protect them, officials emphasized.

The report cites more than 1,100 tobacco-related deaths in Hawaii annually and $525 million in medical costs and lost productivity.

"It is our hope that this information will help us all continue to make great strides to reduce the burden of tobacco in Hawaii," said Health Director Chiyome Fukino. The department and its Tobacco Prevention & Education Program organized the conference with community organizations.

"This is not a social issue alone. It is not a medical issue alone. It is not an economic issue alone. It is an issue of social justice," said Dr. Cheryl Healton, American Legacy Foundation president.

Among highlights of the report:

>> More than 60 percent of middle school students and more than 70 percent of high school students have tried smoking.

>> Native Hawaiians have the highest smoking rate of any ethnic group, starting when at about age 14 or 15 and smoking mostly Kools.

>> Women comprise 16 percent of smokers; almost 26 percent of native Hawaiian women smoke.

>> About 47 percent of female smokers average less than $25,000 a year in household income.

>> About one in five adults smoke cigarettes, and 85 percent do not plan to quit in the next month. The rate of 21 percent is lower than the national average.


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