Lawmakers Must Prioritize Hawaii’s Keiki Over Big Tobacco’s Profits and Preserve Hawaii’s Tobacco Prevention Trust Fund

Raiding the Funding Could Reverse Decades of Progress in Fighting Tobacco, Costing the State Lives and Money

April 12, 2021

HONOLULU—The Senate will have its final vote tomorrow, Tuesday, April 13, on House Bill 1296 that would dismantle Hawaii’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund, which has significantly reduced smoking rates for more than two decades. If passed by the Senate and agreed upon by the House, the bill could head to Governor Ige’s desk as soon as the end of this week.  

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) opposes this legislation and urges the Senate to vote no on House Bill 1296 and preserve critical funding for tobacco prevention.

"Our lawmakers can put the health and future of Hawaii’s keiki and our communities over Big Tobacco’s profits, and we urge them to oppose this dangerous legislation that jeopardizes decades of progress in fighting tobacco use," said Cynthia Au, ACS CAN Hawaii government relations director. "This funding is critical to protect kids from a deadly addiction and help adults quit using tobacco products. We know there are tough decisions to balance our budget shortfall but raiding this funding will cost us lives and money."

Established more than 20 years ago, the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund has dramatically reduced youth and adult smoking rates. Additionally, these investments have saved the state more than $1 billion in health care costs over the past decade. For every $1 Hawaii spends on tobacco prevention, the state saves $6.64 in direct healthcare costs.

This fund was created with settlement money from the tobacco industry specifically as a reliable, ongoing source of funds for the state’s tobacco prevention efforts. HB 1296 would replace this money from tobacco companies with taxpayer dollars. Tobacco use already costs Hawaii’s taxpayers and the state more than $526 million in annual health care costs.

Today, youth cigarette smoking in Hawaii is at all-time lows and adult smoking rates have been cut in half. However, e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products are being used to hook youth. More than 30% of Hawaii’s teens use e-cigarettes, some of the nation’s highest rates. E-cigarette usage is even higher on the neighbor islands. As the tobacco industry evolves, strong and well-funded tobacco control programs are more important than ever. In fact, 85% of Hawaii voters say it’s “very important” to dedicate money for programs to prevent tobacco use among kids and help people who currently use tobacco quit.

Preserving reliable tobacco prevention funding is also essential to reduce disparities in at-risk populations. Tobacco companies spend about $26 million annually to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in Hawaii—often targeting youth, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, LGBTQ individuals, people of lower incomes and the mental health community, leading to higher rates of tobacco use and death.

"As we continue to battle COVID-19 and also face a youth e-cigarette epidemic, now is not the time to dismantle successful public health programs," Au continued. "Without this funding, we’ll likely see youth smoking rates increase, more lives lost and greater health care costs. We urge the Senate to vote no on this legislation and help protect us from Big Tobacco."

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death, and smoking will kill roughly 1,400 Hawaii residents this year. Unless we curb youth tobacco use, 21,000 kids alive today will eventually die prematurely from smoking.


About ACS CAN at 20 

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that saves lives. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and made workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. As we mark our 20th anniversary, we’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers and save more lives from cancer. Join the fight by visiting

More Press Releases AboutPrevention and Cessation, Tobacco Control, Hawaii

Media Contacts