The Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Island (TFHI) coalition had a long and vibrant history of collective impact in tobacco control for nearly 20 years. Tobacco-Free Big Island (TFBI) Coalition first started in March of 2003, with 30 community members from health care, law enforcement, community organizations, and national health organizations (such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association), serving East Hawaiʻi only. The coalition grew into Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Island (TFHI) in 2017, which encompasses members from around Hawaiʻi Island. Tracie Yoshimoto led the TFBI and spearheaded our first large policy campaign for Smoke-Free Workplaces in 2003, which led to our statewide Smoke-Free Workplace law in 2006.

From 2004 to 2010, TFBI led policy changes in regulating second-hand smoke. On April 21, 2008 (Earth Day), Hawaiʻi County became the first county in the state to regulate tobacco-free parks, beaches, and recreational facilities by eliminating all tobacco use on these grounds, including parking lots. For the first time, island residents and visitors could visit our beaches without seeing cigarette butts littering. Youth could play sports without breathing secondhand smoke from the doorways of gyms and keiki could play on playgrounds without smoke filling the air. In 2010, Hawaiʻi County passed regulations to also eliminate secondhand smoke in vehicles with minors (age 17 and under) on board. These forward-thinking, progressive policies were instrumental for other counties in the state to enact the same tobacco laws.

TFBI rebranded to Tobacco-Free East Hawaiʻi (TFEH) in 2010, with a new coordinator – longtime TFBI member, Sally Ancheta. TFEH built new relationships with partners from local community health care centers, who were funded by the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation through the Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund. Coalition membership expanded to include people from the education and legal fields, for example, educators from area high schools and complex area Health, P.E. resource teachers, Hawaiʻi County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, and many more community partners. In partnership with Tobacco-Free West Hawaiʻi (TFWH), the coalition worked closely with Councilmember Dru (Mamo) Kanuha and his staff to legislate the sale of tobacco products to youth and young adults in 2013. Councilmember Kanuha championed the Raise the Age campaign, which raised the minimum age to purchase and possess all tobacco products (including electronic smoking devices or ESD) to age 21. Hawaiʻi County was only the fourth County in the nation to have such a law, leading the path for collective impact. This revolutionary policy became a state law in 2016. Hawaiʻi became the first state in the nation to raise the age of sales of tobacco products to 21 and became federal law in December 2019.

In 2017, TFEH joined with the Tobacco-Free West Hawaiʻi coalition to become Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Island (TFHI). TFHI has an active membership that meets regularly via Zoom. Members collaborate to create collective impact in the areas of the youth ESD/vaping epidemic, increase access to tobacco cessation services and programs, and advocate for statewide policy to reduce youth access/use and preserve the Tobacco Trust Fund. TFHI membership has grown: Hawai‘i County community health centers and HCF grantees, staff and educators from various schools in the Department of Education, community youth organizations, Hawaiʻi County Office of the Prosecuting, local and state government, and committed community members.

Nate Hakeem, Tobacco Treatment Specialist from the West Hawaiʻi Community Health Center (WHCHC) recently shared why he joined TFHI – “I joined the coalition in 2018 after coming on with WHCHC as a behavioral health case manager and the program lead over WHCHC’s tobacco cessation. Being new to tobacco cessation, I was eager to learn all I could. I find the coalition [to be] very beneficial in understanding the bigger picture outside of our tobacco services here at the clinic in what we are facing both as a community here on Big Island as well as statewide. The coalition keeps me very informed on all that, in addition to the networking, collaborating, and training opportunities it provides. I love how TFHI encourages and provokes us all to use our voices to be heard, especially right now in sharing the positive impact we see happening in our communities every day made possible by these funds.” He also mentioned, “Any organization or institutes with a stake in our community should be a part of it. I would love to see more representation from those who work directly with youth such as the DOE.”

Mari Martin, a Tobacco Treatment Specialist with Bay Clinic and a fairly new member to TFHI shared, “I joined the coalition in October 2019 soon after being hired as a Tobacco Treatment Specialist. I feel this is a great way to stay connected to others on the island who are outside of the agency I work for and to collaborate, learn, and work together to keep our communities healthy. Being a member you get connected to a large group of people from different organizations and backgrounds from around the Island who are working towards the same goal: to help educate everyone about the harmful effects of tobacco and vaping as well as to help the people in our community to quit these things. They also provide us with training opportunities. I would recommend anyone to join as this topic of tobacco and vaping touches everyone in our community. It would be great to have parents, grandparents, teachers, physicians, athletic coaches, police, and more lawmakers join TFHI.”

TFHI is part of the Hawai‘i Public Health Institute with its coordinator positions housed at HIPHI. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the TFHI coalition meets monthly on the last Thursday of the month from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM virtually via Zoom online platform. On Thursday, September 30, 2021, TFHI will be hosting their annual Planning Retreat from 8:30 AM to12:30 PM via Zoom TFHI 2022 Planning Retreat Registration. We welcome our community members to join TFHI to plan our priorities in the areas of: 1) youth vaping and education 2) tobacco cessation and nicotine dependency treatment 3) policy and advocacy for both state and local arenas. For more information on TFHI, contact East Hawaiʻi Coordinator Sally Ancheta at sally@hiphi.org or West Hawaiʻi Coordinator, Lisa De Santis at lisa@hiphi.org.

TFHI members at the 2020 Planning Retreat at the West HI Community Health Center, in September 2019.