HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii youth activists gathered at the state capitol Sunday for a “March Against Menthol.”
Youth waved signs in an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of menthol cigarette use among younger generations.
Protestors called for lawmakers to include the banning of menthol flavored cigarettes as part of the Hawaii Senate Bill 1147.
The bill aims to ban flavored tobacco products in the state, but it does not consider menthol as a flavor that should be banned.
“Only doing partial flavor bans does not encompass the full problem, which is the youth vaping epidemic,” said Nikkya Taliaferro, one of the youth organizers. “This isn’t just something that’s passive. It’s something that we’re seeing in our schools, it’s something that we’re seeing with our friends.”
Protesters said that companies use the minty flavor as a way to attract teens and get them hooked on tobacco and nicotine products.
“In Hawaii, 78% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander smokers use menthol cigarettes. Lawmakers shouldn’t miss this opportunity to completely tackle this tobacco epidemic, addressing social justice and improving health simultaneously,” said Taliaferro.
The Hawaii Public Health Institute said that tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Hawaii.
Activists said that this is an incredibly pressing issue as the state’s rates of middle and high school e-cigarette use are among the highest in the nation.
Marches were organized across the state, with events held at several locations on Oahu, Lihue, Kahului and Hilo.
More than 80 people participated in the statewide event hosted by the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii Youth Council, a program part of the Hawaii Public Health Institute.