What a year! We may just look back at 2013 as the year that Hawai‘i became a nationally recognized trailblazer for public health.
To begin with, we expanded our organization and mission to build on the many successes of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i and to become the Hawai‘i Public Health Institute (HIPHI). This was the result of years of planning and relationship-building and positions HIPHI to most effectively tackle the top two causes of preventable death: tobacco use and obesity.
We were pleased to welcome to Hawai‘i two staff members from the National Network of Public Health Institutes and Joe Hafey, President Emeritus for Public Health Institute, which came to meet our board members and staff and to provide mentorship. We were also provided the opportunity to visit sister institutes to see firsthand how they promote public health in their communities. Our visits to California’s Public Health Institute and Oregon Public Health Institute were eye-opening and gave us a perspective on public health that has already proven to be profoundly helpful.
The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i is stronger than ever and made great strides in 2013. We knew we had to broaden our approach to take on emerging threats like electronic smoking devises (ESDs) and to further reduce the tobacco industry’s influence over youth. Recognizing that 9 in 10 smokers began when they were under 21, we helmed a campaign on the Big Island to raise the age of sale to purchase tobacco products. The campaign was successful and made the Big Island one of the first municipalities in the nation to require tobacco purchasers to be at least 21 years of age.
At the state level, we also raised the age of purchase for ESDs to 18 to help tackle their growing popularity among youth. And, to further protect our keiki, we advocated that all tobacco product displays be out of reach of children so that only employees could access tobacco products, eliminating all tobacco self-service displays. Both measures passed and are now law!
As you can see, 2013 was a year of unprecedented collaboration and progress. Thank you for standing with us as we look forward to another year of advancing public health in Hawai‘i.