February was an epic month for public health on Kaua‘i. With over 50 presentations on the dangers of vaping and a number of awareness events lined up for the month, we caught the attention of Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami who proclaimed February 2019 as #808NoVape Education Month.

On February 12, the Mayor announced his proclamation at the Kaua‘i District Student Council’s monthly meeting to honor their efforts towards increasing awareness on Kaua‘i. The ceremony just so happened to take place at the Mayor’s alma matter, Kaua‘i High School.

The Kaua‘i District Student Council, which is comprised of student council representatives from all three public high schools, wanted to do something meaningful to combat the vaping epidemic in Kaua‘i. Their first step was to call in Auntie Valerie from the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i, a program of Hawai‘i Public Health Institute (HIPHI),  and learn about the basic function of vape products as well as the health harms and statistics of teen use. All three high schools chose to participate in an island-wide sign-waving event to raise awareness on February 8 in their respective towns.

The Kaua‘i High School Student Council took it upon themselves to create a 15-minute presentation, which they presented in numerous classes at their school, during a faculty meeting, and at a special parent night presentation.

Kapa‘a High School was one of six lucky high schools across the state selected to collaborate with artist Ken Nishimura of Keep It Flowing Inc. and HIPHI for a Breathe Aloha mural painted on their school campus. Many hands helped create this mural including Kapa‘a High School’s Student Council and Mayor Derek Kawakami.

The unveiling of this mural took place on Tuesday, February 19, and was followed by a vaping education assembly for the ninth graders. The #808NoVape presentation by HIPHI’s Kevin Ramirez made it clear to all present that vaping forever changes the developing brain and that the industry is directly targeting them with 15,000 flavors to lure them in as nicotine hooks them for life. In the evening, Kevin returned for a community presentation hosted at Kapa‘a High School, which was coordinated through Nancy Borilez, Kapa‘a High School’s PCNC.

Waimea High School hosted a community health resource fair and held vaping presentations for their staff as well as JROTC and health classes, which resulted in testimony from a number of students supporting HB 276, a ban on flavored tobacco.

Other schools also benefited from vaping education presentations provided by CTFH during February, including Kīlauea Elementary School, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, and Kapa‘a Middle School. CTFH has additional presentations currently booked in March for Koloā Elementary School, Kalaheo Elementary School, Kekaha Elementary School, Kawaikini Charter School and afterschool programs including Hale ‘Opio and church youth groups.

To request a presentation on Kaua‘i for your organization please contact valerie@hiphi.org.