Big Tobacco, or commercial tobacco, has historically ravaged Native Hawaiian communities, wreaking havoc and harm to our people from keiki to kupuna. Seen as one of the top markets for menthol tobacco products since the 1960s, remnants still linger throughout our islands. In addition to combustible commercial tobacco, young people (minors and young adults) are being targeted by e-cigarette companies.
Although makahala (Native Hawaiian tobacco) has been used in laʻau lapaʻau, commercial tobacco as well as its subsequent nicotine-related products such as e-cigarettes (also known as ESD, ENDS), have been imported into Native Hawaiian communities since Western-Colonial contact. Since its import, tobacco, and more recently e-cigs, have infiltrated and ravaged through our kaiaulu (communities). The 2021 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey shows that Native Hawaiian youth are particularly vulnerable to the Tobacco Industry’s targeted marketing.
- Native Hawaiian middle and high school students are more likely to report experimenting with e-cigs, currently using e-cigs, and frequently using e-cigs are higher rates than the general student population.
- High School ʻōpio wāhine report having tried smoking commercial tobacco than non-kanaka HS girls.
- High school ʻōpio kāne frequently smoke commercial tobacco at higher rates than non-kanaka HS boys.
- A 2019 Youth Tobacco Survey reported that one out of three Native Hawaiian youth cited flavors as the reason they tried e-cigarettes.
- Hawaiʻi county HS youth report higher rates of trying commercial tobacco over every other county.
- Maui and Hawaiʻi county HS youth report higher rates of tobacco and ESD usage, over the other counties.
- Although Hawaiʻi county MS youth report higher rates of tobacco and ESD usage, Honolulu and Kauaʻi counties report higher rates tobacco and ESD usage among kānaka MS youth.
Papa Ola Lōkahi has heeded the kāhea from communities, ʻohana and ʻōpio to take action in lowering tobacco and vaping rates among our people.