While there are a number of youth-serving organizations in Maui County, there hasn’t been an established group that is laser-focused on the youth voice in policymaking around health and substance use. In 2016, three Maui County coalitions came together to change that by providing local advocacy training for Maui County youth. Collectively, the Maui, Molokai, Lana’i Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai’i (Coalition), Healthy Eating + Active Living Coalition, and the Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth put the spotlight on policy solutions around tobacco use and youth vaping, childhood obesity, and underage drinking and marijuana use.

Enter 2019. Two-and-a-half years later, the Maui Nui Youth Council (MNYC) has seven active members who have been involved in the passage of our smoke-free cars with keiki law, the 24-hour alcohol sales repeal, the smoking definition update to include electronic smoking devices, and statewide efforts to pass a candy-flavored tobacco ban. In the near future, they hope to help pass policies that would help address underage drinking at house parties and to reduce children’s sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. 

The Maui Nui Youth Council members — Han Davis, Kawena Kekuewa, Isabelle Collier, Tyler Fisher, Tihani Belena, Kaiyle Okada, and Alissa Okada — have been gathering and submitting testimony in support of the flavored tobacco ban and spreading the word at events like the Baldwin High School Block Party in February. All of the MNYC members have also been trained in the Maui, Molokai, Lana’i Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai’i youth vaping education presentation and are 100 percent prepared to educate their peers and parents on the risks associated with youth vaping.  

To celebrate all the accomplishments that our youth council has achieved, a Presidents’ Day retreat was held with a picnic and swimming at Kaanapali Beach, followed by an Escape Room team building challenge at Maui Escape Rooms in Whaler’s Village. Of course, with such brilliant young minds in the room, all escaped the most challenging pirate ship themed room with plenty of time to spare!

The next big Coalition and MNYC event will be Kick Butts Day on Wednesday, March 20. Two of our youth council members will be traveling to the Capitol to help educate their representatives on why a candy-flavored tobacco ban is important for protecting youth, while the rest of our members and partners will hold a rally in front of the Maui County building in Wailuku. The morning will begin with a Kick Butts Day proclamation at 9:45 am on the front lawn of the County Building (200 S. High Street) and will be followed by a sign-waving rally from 10:00 am – 11:00 am along S. High Street in front of the building. 

To learn more about or join MNYC and/or our Kick Butts Day event for Maui County, please contact Katie Folio at katie@hiphi.org.