HONOLULU (KHON2) — The University of Hawaii Cancer Center Researcher, Scott Okamoto, PhD, MDW received a $2.8 million grant to evaluate and develop an e-cigarette prevention intervention for Hawaii’s youth in rural areas.

The grant is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA builds on Ho’ouna Pono, a drug curriculum designed for rural Hawaiian youth.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 percent of middle schoolers in the state of Hawaii currently vape. Thirty percent of those middle schoolers are Native Hawaiians and of Pacific Islander ancestry.

There will also be a social media and print campaign which will be placed at multiple schools across the Big Island from the intervention plan.

UH Manoa expects around 500 students to enroll in this study over the next 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-cigarettes have been connected with symptoms of asthma and bronchitis, and eventually leading to lung cancer.

The UH Cancer Center has also said that those who vape are five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

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This e-cigarette intervention plans to diminish respiratory disorders and prevent Hawaii’s youth from continuing to use e-cigarettes.