The health group MIEPI was established in 2008 by “the Bens” — Ben Graham, Ben Chutaro — as a substance abuse prevention organization. Since then, MIEPI has taken on different projects with the Single State Agency, Kumit, United Nations Development Program, WUTMI, Ministries of Health and Education, and Youth to Youth in Health.
As the organization marks its eighth anniversary this month, among its notable successes is in coordinating the RMI Synar Program.
When the organization started in 2008, the tobacco retail violation rate — selling tobacco to minors under 18 — was an alarming 93 percent. At the time, almost every store was illegally selling tobacco products to young people. Each year since then the RMI has carried out community and business education campaigns and surveillance on tobacco retail outlets.
“When I began as a board member in 2015, MIEPI worked together with project partners and can now proudly report that the violation rate of selling tobacco to minors was at its record lowest of 13.6 percent in FY 2015,” said MIEPI board member Arlington Tibon, who is also a Rita Councilman. He made the point that this means, “approximately nine out of 10 stores do not sell tobacco products to minors” today.
Tibon said the Marshall Islands has come a long way since 2008, when there was a 93 percent violation rate. The message? “Prevention works,” he said.
“MIEPI will continue to work with community members and tobacco compliance project implementers: Kumit Bobrae Coalitions, RMI National Police, local police, and the Attorney General to bring it to zero percent violations,” he said.