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Great American Smokeout

Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i to launch first annual event.

November 11, 2010
Kolea Schonwalter

The Maui community is invited to join the festivities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The family-friendly event will feature live entertainment, including music from the One Inity Reggae Band. Food booths will showcase organizations promoting healthy lifestyle alternatives to tobacco smoking.

The celebration, which is spearheaded by and geared toward youth, follows the Great American Smokeout (GASO) educational event slated in local high schools on Thursday, Nov. 18.

In keeping with the teen-focus of GASO, Eva Valdez, Maui coordinator of the local GASO, acknowledged Ashley Hudson, Alex Halley, Monica Medrano and Chaun Sablas—four youths who have accumulated impressive records of achievement by hosting REAL teen energizing events in and out of schools.

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Chaun Sablas and Monica Medrano are taking a stand against the tobacco industry’s manipulative tactics.

REAL is not an acronym. “It means, get real about tobacco smoking and taking a stance against the manipulative tactics that the industry uses to recruit youth to smoking tobacco,” said REAL Special Projects Leader Hudson.

“We do events outside the norm to get attention,” Halley explained. “We host poetry slams, dances, graffiti, skate jams and flash mob freezes. Large numbers of people freeze in place unexpectedly for a minute to draw attention to your cause,” explained Halley. “REAL has done flash mob freezes in Waikiki and in the quad at Baldwin High School to raise awareness about how the tobacco industry targets and manipulates youth.”

“At REAL presentations, we give away REAL gear, beach balls, sunglasses and key chains. Girls get makeup,” added Hudson.

In Girl Talk—a special presentation for girls—students demonstrate how the tobacco industry has lured young women through weight and fashion gimmicks, Hudson explained. Examples include Virginia Slims’ marketing and advertising.

What these four active youths also have in common, besides their moral convictions and membership in REAL, is a tobacco-smoking-related death in their family.

“I want to be a leader to help others make the choice to live tobacco-free,” said Hudson. “I’ve seen the devastating effects of smoking—my grandfather died from cancer—and I want to stop the future generation from feeling that pain….”

More shocking yet to these youths are the tactics that the aggressive tobacco industry employs to recruit youth to the smoking habit.

“They target their advertising by sponsoring hip-hop deejays and free concerts for anyone 18 years and older in order to promote their products,” agreed Hudson and Halley.

Anna Mayeda, community manager of the American Cancer Society Health Initiative, expressed her gratitude to Valdez and the coalition, Maui Economic Opportunity Youth Services and the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) for programs that capture the attention of youth and their families.

“This event is a great way to get the parents excited and to get help for their addiction,” said Mayeda. “Tobacco addiction starts young and is life-long. Vulnerable, at-risk youth—even young adults in their 20s—are targeted by the tobacco industry,” she said.

“The hardest part is making the decision to quit smoking,” Mayeda said. “It’s not uncommon for smokers to attempt to quit seven times.”

“Help is available to everyone—insured and uninsured—seeking nicotine replacement therapy and other cessation programs,” said Mayeda.

“Tobacco smokers not only endanger human health, but animal life as well,” Mayeda added.

During the “Butts Off the Beach” campaign, PWF employees distribute empty film canisters to visitors aboard their boats to contain the nicotine-laden butts.

To raise awareness and clean up the beaches, Community Work Day Program volunteers conduct beach cleanups throughout the year.

“At the recent Hāna Bay beach cleanup, the kids gathered 1,045 butts in just 20 minutes—despite the downpour!” said Valdez.

“Over the years, the state coalition and many of its over 3,000 statewide members, including REAL, have helped advocate for legislation including a tobacco tax increase, which made Hawai‘i’s the fourth highest tax in the nation,” said Juan Moncada, deputy director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawai‘i.



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