State falls short in
anti-smoking spending

Hawaii is spending only 7.5 percent of the $118.6 million to be received next year from the tobacco settlement and cigarette taxes for prevention, $1.9 million below federally recommended levels, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The state should be spending $10.8 million a year on tobacco prevention, according to the campaign's report, "A Broken Promise to Our Children," which was released yesterday.

That is the least amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for such programs for Hawaii, said Deborah Zysman, director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii.

Only Maine, Delaware, Mississippi and Arkansas are funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at CDC-recommended levels, the campaign said.

Hawaii ranks sixth in the nation in spending on tobacco prevention programs, which is "a good start," Zysman said.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids report marks five years since the $246 billion settlement required tobacco companies to make annual payments to states as reimbursement for tobacco-related health-care costs.

It was released at a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing looking at the use of tobacco settlement funds.

Most states have failed to use a significant amount of their settlement money for tobacco prevention programs, the report concluded.

"I'm sure it's an economic issue," Zysman said, "but we know prevention saves dollars. We need to take a longer-range view."

Annual health-care costs and losses in productivity related to smoking are estimated at nearly $600 million in Hawaii, she said.

She said there is clear evidence that well-funded tobacco prevention and control programs save lives and cut health-care costs. Every dollar spent on prevention can save $3, she said.

"We need to do that in this state. We have a health-care economic problem."

She said the coalition will ask legislators at the next session to "honor their promise" under the tobacco settlement and maintain funding for prevention programs.

The tobacco industry spends $449 million a year to market products in Hawaii -- 5.5 times more than what the state spends on tobacco prevention, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said.

"Hawaii is one of only a few states that has made a solid commitment to tobacco prevention, but it is still falling short of the minimum amount recommended by the experts at CDC," said William Corr, executive director of the campaign.

"Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention remains one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments that Hawaii can make," he said.

The report was issued by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.

In Hawaii, 24.5 percent of high school students smoke, and 2,700 more students became daily smokers every year -- one-third of whom will die prematurely, the report said.

Maine, ranking first among states in funding tobacco prevention, has reduced smoking by 48 percent among high school students and 59 percent among middle school students since 1997, the report said.

Studies show programs in other states have saved thousands of lives by reducing smoking-related diseases, it said.

But budget cuts have decimated some of the oldest and most successful programs and derailed new ones, it said.

Program urges Windward
residents to quit smoking

Getting people along the Windward Coast to quit smoking is the goal of the Waimanalo Health Center and Castle Medical Center in a joint program.

Two orientation classes are scheduled for today, from 10 a.m. to noon and 6 to 8 p.m.

A free lunch was planned for after the morning session, while the evening class starts with dinner.

The program, observing the "Great American Smoke Out" this month, will include five additional classes between Sunday and next Thursday, either 10 a.m. to noon or 6 to 8 p.m.

Meals will be served at each class.

All classes will be held at the Waimanalo Health Center.

The classes would normally cost more than $100 a person, but they are being offered free to Waimanalo and Windward Oahu residents through a grant to Castle Medical Center's Wellness Division, health officials said.

Call 263-5400 to register.

Star-Bulletin staff


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