In late October, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawai‘i (Coalition), a program of Hawai‘i Public Health Institute, along with the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and the Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH), hosted the state’s first-ever Electronic Smoking Devices (ESD) conference. Over 200 participants from various sectors, including education, law enforcement, state and city attorneys, and public health champions gathered to learn from national and local experts about the evolution and dangers of ESDs and how we can begin to reverse this epidemic.
Our experts included: Dr. Brian King, Deputy Director of Research Translation – Office of Smoking and Health from the CDC in Atlanta; Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, Professor in the Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, who joined us from California at the Stanford University; Ms. Annie Tegen, Regional Advocacy Director – Western Region, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; and Dr. Forrest Batz, HIPHI Board Member and former faculty from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo School of Pharmacy. The conference also had breakout sessions focused on policy, counter-marketing, and school issues.
With the growing prevalence of youth ESD use across our state in elementary, middle, and high schools, the Coalition and our partners felt that a conference specifically focused on increasing awareness, knowledge, and possible solutions to tackling ESDs was desperately needed in our state. Hawaii’s youth use rate is double the national average and, locally, we see elevated rates higher than 50 percent of high school youth ever trying ESDs in Hawai‘i and Maui counties.