For the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Youth Council, a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic was being forced to rethink how we deliver our programs. Over the summer, a youth leadership team was established with representatives from all four counties, including public and private schools. They met throughout the summer developing strategies to pivot to an online environment. 

The result?  Our fall events saw up to 100% increases in participation. Equally, if not more important: the youth leadership team planned and delivered all events, transitioning the Youth Council into a truly youth-led organization. 

The leadership team also spent weeks debating the policy priority options for this year’s legislative session. While they agreed that continuing work on the Flavor Ban was important, the debate centered around the need for other comprehensive tobacco control mechanisms to curb the youth e-cigarette epidemic. In the end, they agreed that: eliminating the sale of flavors, combined with taxing e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products, and ending online sales were all necessary if real change was to be achieved. They also decided that these issues needed to be reframed as the social justice issues they are, impacting youth and other already negatively-impacted communities disproportionately.  

To help support their efforts, please text BreatheAloha to 52886 and take just three minutes to let your lawmakers know you support comprehensive tobacco regulations this legislative session! For more information about the Youth Council please visit https://www.hiphi.org/youth/  or contact Scott Stensrud at scott@hiphi.org.