Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Skip to content
Section Navigation
Group Photo From The Maui County Tobacco-Free Coalition's Meeting In 2023.

Maui County Tobacco-Free Coalition: Rooted in Resilience

Through the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the deadliest wildfires in the United States, it is evident that the Maui community has been faced with many challenges over the past few years. Through the darkness, however, there is always light and the Maui County Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Coalition is just that. Maui County has a new coordinator to help with the efforts of moving toward a tobacco-free Hawai‘i. Leslie Garo is the new Maui County Coalition Coordinator, joining Hawai‘i Public Health Institute in September 2023. Leslie Garo brings a wealth of clinical and public health experience through her previous roles as a Medical Assistant, Programs Manager at the Community Clinic of Maui, and Diabetes Prevention Program Coach. She also started Maui’s first Group Prenatal Care Program and worked alongside Community Health Workers.

Recently, Maui County Tobacco-Free Coalition held its first in-person meeting since 2021. The coalition is currently looking for new members to join. If you are interested, you can contact Leslie at leslie@hiphi.org.

Leonani Meyer, a member of the coalition, was recently recognized as the 2023 Outstanding Service Provider in Tobacco Control at the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i’s Annual Stakeholder Meeting. Leonani is a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor at Mālama I Ke Ola Health Center on Maui. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Social Science with a concentration in Substance Abuse and Addiction Studies from the University of Hawai‘i West O‘ahu. When we interviewed Leonani, she expressed that her main goal was to help her patients get clean and sober, one step at a time. We asked Leo what inspired her to become a tobacco service provider, to which she responded “As a CSAC, I discovered that a lot of my patients were smoking tobacco. I wanted to help them with their nicotine addiction also, so I became a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist.” 

We also asked Leo to share about the success and impact she has made within her community. Leo stated, “I can say that 50% of my patients have quit smoking cigarettes, about 20% have switched to an alternative like vaping, and about 30% have cut down on smoking. One of my patients was a smoker for 22 years and she is finally tobacco-free. She feels better, looks better, and she is feeling healthier!”

During the pandemic, Leo partnered with Mālama I Ke Ola’s street medicine team to help get the word out about their nicotine dependence program. She was able to serve people who were houseless and ready to talk about quitting smoking and vaping. After the August fires, Leonani also sprang into action to help people who were displaced from the Westside, seeing around 20 people in a day for smoking cessation.

The Maui community has faced many challenges, but it is evident that the community and its people continue to rise above it all. The community has been resilient and our Tobacco-Free Maui County Coalition is ready to serve and work towards a healthier Hawai‘i.

Headshot of Leslie Garo

Leslie Garo

Maui County Coordinator for the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i
Back To Top