Our Kids Deserve A Vaping-Free Future - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Cynthia Honma

Cynthia Honma lives in Keaau. She works at Ken’s Towing Service, which has long supported community programs to prevent drug and alcohol addiction among young people. 

One in three public high schoolers in Hawaii have used e-cigarettes at least once in the past 30 days. That shocking statistic comes from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a biennial survey that regularly monitors the health risk behaviors of public, non-charter school students statewide. The results of the study — which was conducted by the state Departments of Health and Education and the University of Hawaii Manoa and included over 12,000 students in grades 9 through 12 — were released last month.

Vaping is even worse where I live on the Big Island. We have one of the highest vaping rates in the nation – 20% of middle schoolers have vaped within the last 30 days.

These numbers have continued to climb steadily over the past several years. Even worse: Without systemic intervention, these trends will continue.

As a concerned parent, I began a journey to get more information about vaping. First, I Googled it. I had a rude awakening as I discovered how many sweet, candy-like flavors made vaping appear harmless and how easy it was to purchase vaping materials online and in stores. Additionally, the devices are easy to hide as they are made to look like pens, USB drives or everyday objects like lipstick containers.

Then I connected myself with anti-tobacco youth advocates and found out today’s e-cigarette products can be exponentially more addictive than tobacco products of the past. According to the Stanford Tobacco Prevention Toolkit, some e-cigarette products contain the nicotine equivalent of 50 to 90 cigarettes. Candy flavors make vaping accessible to keiki and over 82% of youth who vape are using a flavored product. The most popular flavors are the mentholated flavors like Pineapple Ice and Icy Lychee, where the menthol masks the harsh taste of tobacco, making it easier to start and harder to quit.

A hearing on a vaping bill during the state Legislature’s 2020 session. Eleni GIll/Civil Beat/2020

No parent or teacher can single-handedly fight the millions of dollars that the tobacco industry is spending on marketing and new vaping products to hook our kids. We need help. We need our legislators, our local businesses and our community to help us fight this youth vaping crisis in Hawaii.

We need a comprehensive approach to eliminating the sale of flavored tobacco, including menthol, as well as taxes and regulation of e-cigarette products that are on par with other tobacco products currently on the market. We also need to fund tobacco education, prevention and cessation programs for our youth to ensure that we prevent the future health problems caused by today’s vaping crisis.

The Legislature is currently looking at a handful of bills to address the youth vaping crisis and we urge our legislators to take action now. We cannot wait until vaping further locks our keiki into the grip of addiction. Our kids deserve an addiction-free future.

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About the Author

Cynthia Honma

Cynthia Honma lives in Keaau. She works at Ken’s Towing Service, which has long supported community programs to prevent drug and alcohol addiction among young people. 

Latest Comments (0)

Mahalo for sharing your experience and concern. Let's continue to hold #bigtobacco accountable for baiting our kids and creating more #victims to addiction. If vaping was truly only a harm reduction tool for adults, they wouldn't need to make them candy-flavored and looking like juiceboxes. #thinkaboutit #breathealoha 

peacelovejoy · 2 years ago

Vaping isn’t harmless, it’s harm reductive. I’ve been vaping for 11 years now and I've had no respiratory health issues whatsoever. I get a physical every other year during which, my doctor checks my lungs. My lungs were more damaged after smoking for 4 years than they are now after vaping for over a decade. Harm reduction is more effective than the seemingly endless cycle of abstinence and relapse.  

Mittens92 · 2 years ago

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