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Reflecting on 21 years: Honoring the Evolution of Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Island

The Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Island Coalition (TFHI) recently celebrated its 21st anniversary, a significant milestone in tobacco control. This celebration commemorates the Coalition’s unwavering commitment to improving public health and reducing tobacco use on Hawai‘i Island. The TFHI Coalition began in 2003 to address youth cigarette smoking, adult cessation, and smoke-free air policies. Education has always been at the core of TFHI’s efforts. The Coalition has conducted countless educational campaigns in schools, workplaces, and community centers to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and the benefits of quitting. These initiatives have included everything from classroom presentations to large-scale community events designed to inform and empower individuals to make healthier choices. The Coalition organized Kick Butts Day rallies at schools. This annual event mobilized youth worldwide to take a stand against tobacco. Through creative activities and peer education, young people are encouraged to speak out about the impact of smoking and advocate for a tobacco-free future.

Recognizing that quitting tobacco is a challenging journey, the TFHI Coalition has focused on providing resources and support for those who wish to quit. The Coalition has partnered with Hāmākua Kohala Health, Hawaii Island Community Health Center, Big Island Substance Abuse Counseling, Hui Mālama Ola Nā ‘Ōiwi, and other organizations to offer cessation programs that include counseling, nicotine replacement therapy, and support groups. Collaboration has been key to the Coalition’s success. By partnering with local government agencies, healthcare providers, schools, and community organizations, TFHI has been able to amplify its impact and reach a broader audience.

A glimpse at the past 21 years:

  • In 2006, the State of Hawai‘i passed the Clean Indoor Air Law, which made restaurants, worksites, shopping malls, multi-unit housing common areas, health care facilities, public areas, and airports smoke-free statewide. This law was a groundbreaking step in protecting non-smokers from second-hand smoke and has since become a model for other states.
  • In 2008, the Coalition spearheaded a successful effort to make all Hawai‘i County parks, beaches, and recreational facilities smoke-free to protect youth from second-hand cigarette smoke.
  • In 2010, the Hawai‘i County Council was the first to pass an ordinance prohibiting the use of tobacco products with anyone 17 years or younger in a vehicle.
  • In 2013, the Coalition helped raise the age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21. Hawai‘i County was the fourth in the nation and the second-largest county to pass this law.
  • In 2014, the Hawai‘i County Council passed Bill 302, which prohibits the use of electronic smoking devices (e-cigarettes) in all enclosed and partially enclosed places within the County where the use of tobacco products is currently prohibited. Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of e-cigarettes at all County parks and recreational facilities.
  • In January 2024, the Hawai‘i County Council passed Bill 102, which will prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products. However, this law cannot go into effect until state legislation allows the counties to regulate the sale of tobacco products.

Celebrating TFHI’s 21st anniversary was a humbling event that brought together Coalition members, community members, and supporters to reflect on past achievements and set the stage for future endeavors. The event featured testimonials from individuals who have been a part of the Coalition since its inception. Current coalition members were able to better understand the many achievements and what TFHI is capable of accomplishing. We were able to recognize and celebrate those who have been indispensable contributors to our coalition for 21 years, including Sally Ancheta, Tracie Yoshimoto, Shelly Ogata, Kathy Akioka, Cyd Hoffeld, and Hannah Hendricks. Most of these individuals still continue to do tobacco-related work.

As TFHI looks to the future, the Coalition remains committed to its mission. Upcoming initiatives include expanding outreach to rural and underserved communities, addressing the rising use of electronic cigarettes among youth, and continuing to advocate for strong tobacco control policies. The 21st anniversary of the Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Island Coalition is more than a celebration of longevity; it is a celebration of dedication, impact, and hope for a healthier future. With continued support and collaboration, TFHI is poised to build on its legacy and continue making a difference in the lives of Hawai‘i Island residents for many years to come.

If you would like to get involved or for more information on the efforts of the Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Island, please contact Kealoha Madriaga, West Hawai‘i Tobacco and HEAL Coalition Coordinator, at kealoha@hiphi.org or Jay Ihara, East Hawai‘i Tobacco Coalition Coordinator, at jay@hiphi.org.

Jay Ihara

Jay Ihara

East Hawai‘i Tobacco-Free Coordinator
Kealoha Madriaga

Kealoha Madriaga

West Hawai‘i Tobacco and HEAL Coalition Coordinator
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