More than 70 youths from throughout the state rallied at the Hawaii State Capitol recently during the 10th annual “Youth Unite for Kick Butts Day” to support Senate Bill 642. The bill asks retailers to relocate tobacco products out of the reach of youth, similar to cigarettes. The event was sponsored by REAL: Hawaii’s Youth Movement Exposing the Tobacco Industry.
The legislative advocacy training session was conducted by Hawaii’s youth to educate and urge legislators to support Senate Bill 642. This includes relocation of little cigars, snuff and flavored tobacco products.
A portable art display called “Big Tobacco’s Pure Manipulation” showcased flavored tobacco products that target youth audiences.
“Flavored tobacco is marketed to seem fun and less harmful than traditional cigarettes,” said Kelly Takuski Jr., 17-year-old Maui High School senior and statewide youth leader with REAL. “These flavored products are not for adults who have been smoking for a long time, but target youth who may have never tried a cigarette. It’s time for our legislators to stand up and protect kids from exposure to these products.”
Research shows that youths are more sensitive to tobacco advertising than adults and exposure to tobacco advertising is more influential than peer pressure or parental smoking in youth tobacco uptake.
Tobacco companies spend $24.7 million a year in Hawai‘i to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products according to Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The majority of tobacco advertising ends up in stores in our local communities.
After their demonstration, youth activists visited their legislators to ask for their support in three bills that address tobacco product placement. Senate Bill 652 and House Bill 672 originally had language to relocate tobacco products out of the reach of youth but currently does not contain language regarding product placement. Youth also asked legislators to consider completely banning the sale of fruit-flavored tobacco products.
Kick Butts Day is a national event for communities to take action against the tobacco industry. Locally hosted by REAL, the “Youth Unite for Kick Butts Day” event is specific to Hawai‘i and promotes youth activism on current tobacco control issues.
A significant portion of the funding for REAL comes directly from the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund formed with funds from a lawsuit settlement between Hawai‘i and the major tobacco companies after 46 states filed suit against the tobacco industry to recover tobacco-related health care costs.
Other participating organizations in the advocacy training and youth demonstration included: Ewalution, Coalition for a Drug Free Hawaii, Hale Kipa, Boys & Girls Club of Kauai, Baldwin High School and Moloka‘i High School.
REAL: Hawaii’s Youth Movement Exposing the Tobacco Industry is Hawaii’s only youth-led movement “to expose the truth about the tobacco industry.” Started in 2000, REAL is more than 6,000 members strong. Housed at the University of Hawaii’s School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, efforts are funded through Hawaii’s Master Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund.