$2.8M to develop e-cigarette intervention for rural Hawaiian youth

August 24, 2022

Scott Okamoto
Scott Okamoto

Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicates that 18% of all middle school youth in the state of Hawaiʻi currently use an electronic vapor product, ranking first nationally among 14 states collecting data on middle school youth. Of these youth, 30% are of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander ancestry, representing the highest percentage of e-cigarette users among major ethnic groups in Hawaiʻi.

A $2.8-million grant to develop and evaluate a school-based, culturally-grounded e-cigarette prevention intervention for Hawaiʻi’s rural youth has been awarded to University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center researcher, Scott Okamoto. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this project builds on Hoʻouna Pono, a drug prevention curriculum designed for rural Hawaiian adolescents.

The e-cigarette intervention plan will update the existing Hoʻouna Pono curriculum and introduce new e-cigarette and vaping prevention content, including a social and print media campaign across middle/intermediate and multi-level public and public-charter schools on Hawaiʻi Island. More than 500 students are anticipated to enroll in this study over five years.

Okamoto said, “To our knowledge, this is the first study to develop and test an e-cigarette prevention intervention tailored to rural Hawaiian youth. Our proposed intervention will educate youth on the risks of e-cigarette use, while also reflecting the cultural and relational values of rural Hawaiian youth and communities.”

E-cigarette use among adolescents and young adults has been associated with adverse respiratory symptoms, including symptoms of asthma and bronchitis. E-cigarette consumption also increases the risk for using combustible cigarettes, which is directly linked with lung cancer. Research has also found that COVID-19 diagnosis was five times more likely among ever-users of e-cigarettes.

Preventing the use of electronic vapor products through a solid intervention plan will not only help decrease severe respiratory disorders, but prevent the possible use of combustible cigarettes among Hawaiʻi’s rural youth.