Renewed call for more smoking restrictions echoed in Hawaii

Published On: Jan 19 2014 03:40:27 PM HST   Updated On: Jan 19 2014 06:57:17 PM HST

The battle against tobacco has been waged for decades, but now there are renewed calls for Hawaii to snuff out smoking once and for all in the islands.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' story.

50-years ago America was alerted to the dangers of tobacco by the first surgeon general's report on smoking.

Now, the current Surgeon General calls for even more action in the fight against the nation's number one cause of preventable death.

"Today, the annual death toll is approaching 500,000 people every year, enough is enough," stated a national ad against smoking.

In Hawaii, an estimated 1,100 people die each year from smoking. While the cost of cancer related illnesses add up to hundreds of millions of dollars in medical expenses.

Even with all the warnings of the hazards from smoking, many still light up.

More than 160,000 of them here in Hawaii alone, including thousands of teens. Which is why the governor released a statement saying, "It is time for our nation and Hawaii to end the smoking epidemic....we cannot afford to wait another 50 years."

A number of residents agree the state should do more to promote quitting and prevent people from puffing away in the first place.

"The state should spend the resources on stopping kids from smoking because of the health consequences," said Honolulu resident Larry Wenberg.

"They're just trying to do the right thing for the whole community," said Logan Titcomb, another Honolulu resident. "I don't mind it at all, I'm a smoker myself."

But some adult smokers feel they've already been burned by the state, with bans at bars and beaches.

Now they feel they are being targeted simply because they are smokers.

"If people know the health consequences of smoking and its their decision, then I don't think the state should get involved in that," said Kaneohe resident Steven Burgess.

While the governor says Hawaii needs to end this smoking epidemic, the money allocated towards smoking prevention tells a different story.
Hawaii only spends about $8 million a year on smoking prevention efforts.

Money that comes from the tobacco settlement fund which was reached 15-years ago.

Meanwhile, the state takes in more than $100 million dollars each year collecting taxes on cigarettes.

"I'm gonna say maybe cut out smoking altogether," said Kuliouou resident Ted Tokumine."But on the state level maybe that's a cash cow."
Ted adds good health should be priceless."If its your son or daughter who gets cancer from smoking how would it affect you?"

Governor Abercrombie did express concerns about new challenges in the fight against tobacco.

He worried about the impact of unregulated products, like e-cigarettes and whether they help people stop smoking or instead help promoting smoking itself.


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