Save Hawaii’s Tobacco Prevention & Cessation Trust Fund
Sponsored by American Cancer Society-Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association
The Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund has been educating Hawaii’s keiki about the dangers of smoking for more than 20 years. However, that fund may be in trouble at the legislature. HI Now host Kanoe Gibson spoke with Dr. Liz Tam about how it can be saved.
Dr. Tam is a professor and the Chair of Medicine at the University of Hawai’i John A. Burns School of Medicine. She’s a pulmonologist by training and has had the honor to serve on the Advisory Board of the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund. For her, this is a personal issue, as her father died from a tobacco related disease.
The money in the Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund comes from payments from a 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) where Hawaii and 45 other states settled a lawsuit against tobacco companies. These funds are intended to cover current and future costs of tobacco related diseases.
“Hawaii was smart to set up a trust fund to keep the promise that this funding for tobacco prevention and cessation was protected and used for its intended purpose – to help people quit and youth from starting,” Dr. Tam says.
Over the past 20 years, these funds have been going to local, grassroots organizations to provide tobacco prevention and cessation programs and have been extremely successful in preventing and reducing tobacco use in Hawaii.
There are currently 16 Tobacco Cessation Grantees, which include the Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services, Big Island Substance Abuse Council and the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center. Programs like the Hawaii Tobacco Quit Line have been instrumental for thousands of Hawaii residents who are making the choice to quit addictive nicotine.
All the neighbor islands also have tobacco cessation programs that are funded by the Trust Fund and these programs work very closely with local residents to stop the vicious cycle of tobacco.
The Trust Fund also has 13 grantees with programs designed to prevent the use of electronic smoking devices among youth. The rates of youth vaping in Hawaii continues to rise at alarming rates. In 2019, the Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 30 percent of Hawaii’s high school students have vaped within the last 30 days. And it’s even higher on the neighbor islands – about 35 percent of high schoolers on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island use e-cigarettes.
All of the grantees were chosen through a competitive bid process to ensure that their programs work specifically with special populations – such as Native Hawaiians and youth – and are aligned with the Trust Fund’s goals of reducing and preventing tobacco use is Hawaii.
Unfortunately, while the legislature says it wants to address the youth e-cigarette crisis, HB 1296 is attempting to repeal the Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund and eliminate the stable funding for programs that have helped thousands of Hawaii residents over 20 years. Instead, the legislature wants to rely on general funding and the appropriations process to allocate funds for future tobacco prevention and cessation programs. This does not provide the reliable, consistent and responsive funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is recommended by CDC.
If you have lost a loved one to tobacco or know someone who has benefited from a tobacco cessation or e-cigarette prevention program, help save the funding for these programs. Text “Trust808” to 52886 to contact your legislators and keep up to date on this issue.
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