A researcher at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center was awarded nearly $3 million to develop and evaluate school-based, culturally-grounded e-cigarette prevention intervention for youth who live in rural parts of the state.
Scott Okamoto will receive $2.8 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop the plan, which will build on Ho‘ouna Pono, a drug prevention curriculum designed for rural Hawai‘i adolescents.
Existing Ho‘ouna Pono curriculum will be updated and the intervention plan will 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 the Big Island. More than 500 students are anticipated to enroll in this study throughout the course of five years.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to develop and test an e-cigarette prevention intervention tailored to rural (Hawai‘i) youth,” Okamoto said in a press release. “Our proposed intervention will educate youth on the risks of e-cigarette use, while also reflecting the cultural and relational values of rural (Hawai‘i) youth and communities.”
Recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicates that 18% of all middle school youth in Hawai‘i use an electronic vapor product, ranking first among 14 states collecting this data. 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 the islands.
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.