What They’re Watching: Trish La Chica, Hawaii Public Health Institute

Trish La Chica is the Policy and Advocacy Director at Hawaii Public Health Institute. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss tobacco control and prevention.

“Going into this legislative session our main priority areas really continue to be tobacco control and prevention, particularly for our youth. You know, our state has really benefited from a decline in our adult smoking rates. We’re among the lowest in the nation at 13.1 percent but we’re seeing the opposite with the rise of youth vaping rates, and we are experiencing a vaping epidemic. A lot of our schools are getting frustrated with what they’re seeing. Our youth continue to be marketed by products that look and feel like candy, and so our youth advocates this year will be focusing on ending the sale of flavored tobacco. So that will be something to watch out for.

We’re also looking at keeping our kids healthy, making sure that there is access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and innovative approaches looking at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. There’s a way to be able to incentivize those on SNAP to get double credit back when used towards Hawaii-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. So that’s called “Double Up Bucks,” it’s a national model and we’re hoping to replicate that here. You know it’s really a win for our families because it’s nutrition back to their families. It’s also a win for our local farmers because it’s money that stays in in our community.”