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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 6, 2006

5-year plan to cut smoking unveiled

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

There was a whole lot of butt-kicking last night at Washington Place as state officials and private agencies unveiled a five-year plan aimed at controlling and reducing tobacco use in Hawai'i.

The event, Kick Butts Day, also coincided with the release of statistics that showed tobacco use among Hawai'i's youth continues to decline. A survey taken last year of more than 3,200 public middle and high school students showed that fewer teens are experimenting with cigarettes and fewer report that they are smokers, compared with a similar survey taken in 2003.

The survey also showed that most students know that smoking, as well as secondhand smoke, is harmful to their health.

Last night, many of the people involved in fighting tobacco use met at Washington Place to launch a plan that they hope will lead to even better results. The five-point plan targets disparities in tobacco use among population groups, promotes quitting among young people as well as adults, establishes prevention programs that are school-based, works to eliminate nonsmokers' exposure to secondhand smoke and creates a social climate in which tobacco use is less desirable and acceptable.

Many agencies have had anti-smoking programs, but this is the first time that these people got together to develop a comprehensive statewide plan, said Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawai'i.

Most of the funding for the plan comes from the state's $1.24 billion share of a 1997 settlement reached with the tobacco industry.

"What we know of a successful program is there is no one, magic silver bullet," Zysman said. "There's not one element that you can say, if you just do this, that's how we prevent kids from smoking. All of all these people need to come together."

Much of the plan continues to target children because most people start smoking when they are teenagers.

Krystal Pelayo, a junior at Maui's Baldwin High School, is one student hoping to encourage her peers to stay away from cigarettes. Pelayo is a member of REAL-Hawai'i Youth Movement Against the Tobacco Industry, which has about 2,700 members.

"We try to expose the tobacco industry's lies," Pelayo said. "We do peer-to-peer (outreach). We tell them the tobacco industry is targeting us youth and we fight back."

She said many teens don't realize that cigarette companies spend millions each year in Hawai'i to encourage people to smoke. Pelayo said most students are eager to hear her message.

"They think it's a way to be cool, an entryway to be popular. It's considered a normal thing and accepted by the community," Pelayo said. "I tell them about the health issues. I feel really bad that they got influenced and they couldn't fight the temptation."

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.