POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 2, 2011
Hawaii ranks third in the nation in funding programs to prevent children from smoking and help smokers quit, a coalition of public health groups said Wednesday.
Hawaii spends $10.7 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 70 percent of the $15.2 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.
The report found that only two states -- Alaska and North Dakota -- fund prevention programs at the level CDC recommends.
Hawaii has some of the lowest smoking rates in the nation, with 11.3 percent of high school students and 14.5 percent of adults smoking. Nationally, 19.5 percent of high school students and 19.3 percent of adults are smokers.
"Hawaii continues to be a leader in the fight against tobacco and again is one of the top states when it comes to preventing kids from smoking and helping smokers quit," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We applaud Hawaii's leaders for maintaining their commitment to tobacco prevention even in these difficult budget times."
But despite progress, 1,500 island children become regular smokers each year, the report said.
The report also notes that even though Hawaii will collect $187 million this year in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, 5.7 percent of it will go to prevention programs. Tobacco companies spend $33.5 million a year to market products in Hawaii, three times what the state spends to prevent smoking.
At $3.20 a pack, Hawaii has the fourth-highest tobacco tax in the nation, which the report notes contributes to the state's low smoking rates.
The report came out on the same day the state Department of Health released results of its annual survey on illegal tobacco sales to minors.
The survey by the department and the University of Hawaii monitors compliance with laws against selling tobacco products to minors.
The survey involved a team of volunteers ages 15 to 17 and adult observers visiting a random sample of 264 stores in the spring. Sixteen stores, or 6.1 percent, sold cigarettes to minors.
When the state first conducted the survey in 1996, the noncompliance rate was 44.5 percent.