Take a Deep Breath..and Sing!

Hawaii’s top performers take to the Hawaii Theatre stage to promote the benefits of clean air and healthy lungs. Joining the American Lung Association’s

Susan Sunderland
Friday - January 04, 2008
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Al Waterson went from smoking two packs a day to quitting cold turkey 18 years ago
Al Waterson went from smoking two packs a day to quitting cold turkey 18 years ago

Where can you see, in alphabetical order, Rocky Brown, Keahi Conjugacion, Tony Conjugacion, Danny Couch, Diamond Head Theatre Shooting Stars, Yvonne Elliman, Cathy Foy-Mahi, Raiatea Helm, Ka Hale I o Kahala Halau Hula kumu hula Leimomi Maldonado, Rev. Dennis David Kamakahi, Kristian Lei, Zanuck Lindsey, Shari Lynn, Shawna Masuda, Guy Merola, Angela Morales and Sheldeen Morales, Aaron J. Sala, Jordan Segundo, Afatia Thompson, Tiffany Thurston, Al Waterson and Destination Groove Dance Hawaii - all on one stage?

At the Breathe Concert on Saturday, Jan. 12, 7 p.m., at Hawaii Theatre. It’s the hottest ticket in town, and for a good cause. Take a deep breath and read on.

These like-minded entertainers have assembled, voluntarily, to sing the praises of clean air in Hawaii. Not wanting to be labeled eco-terrorists or health fascists, they are lobbyists of the musical kind who are sending a message to our legislators.

Their common refrain is “Don’t extinguish Hawaii’s smoking ban in public places. It saves lives.”

It’s no coincidence that the Breathe Concert happens five days before the Hawaii state Legislature convenes.

Lung Association board member Cathy Foy-Mahi is chairing the concert
Lung Association board member Cathy Foy-Mahi is chairing the concert

Jean Evan, American Lung Association of Hawaii (ALAH) executive director, says, “We must protect this pro-health law and focus attention on the necessity to retain and strengthen it. We also must continue our funding to support adults and children who suffer from asthma and other chronic pulmonary diseases.”

Entertainer and ALAH board member Cathy Foy-Mahi is chairing the Breathe Concert.

Honorary chair is former Hawaii First Lady Lynne Waihee.

The event even has a signature song, titled Breathe, written by composer Johnson Enos. The song, arranged by Kenneth Makuakane, was recorded at Avex Studios by several noted Island entertainers.

The melodious theme is a breath of fresh air itself. The recording, with vocal arrangement by Aaron Sala, reminds one of the We Are the World song done several years ago for a famine relief fund.

Enos’ composition mixes inspiring lyrics (“Breathe the air we can share”) with a Hawaiian mele that heralds “Mai poina I na keiki” (Don’t forget the children). The Hawaiian verse was written by UH-Hilo professor Joseph Keola Donaghy.

Foy-Mahi reminds us that children are an important focus of the clean air campaign.

Ten percent of Hawaii’s children are asthmatic, the second highest in the country. She says children of Hawaiian and Japanese descents suffer at two and three times the national rate ,respectively. Hawaii has the second highest tuberculosis rate in the country.

Nearly 40,200 Hawaii children (14 percent of the state’s youth total) are at risk of secondhand cigarette smoke exposure inside the home, according to the state Department of Health.

Hawaii’s law that prohibits smoking in public indoor places has been under attack by those who want to roll back the law. Some say it’s unconstitutional, snuffing out freedom and liberty of smokers.

More than 50 percent of Americans are covered by a smoking ban of some degree. Hawaii, one of 14 states with a smoking ban, has the nation’s strictest law.

Bianca Batten, who suffers from asthma, sings with the Diamond Head Theatre Shooting Stars
Bianca Batten, who suffers from asthma, sings with the Diamond Head Theatre Shooting Stars

It’s an issue that is clouded in controversy. But when the smoke clears, the health implications of smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke remain. The U.S. Surgeon General reports that exposure to secondhand smoke remains an alarming public health hazard.

“It is most disturbing for a singer,” says Keahi Conjugacion. “I have such difficulty taking breaths as I am singing. A few times after my performances the smoke was so bad in my lungs I was hospitalized in ER with shots and a nebulizer.”

Several performers at the Breathe Concert are ex-smokers who want to encourage others to avoid tobacco addiction.

Shawna Masuda smoked for over a year. She enlisted the help of the Hawaii Tobacco Quit line and friend Pedro Haro to stop. Smoking and singing are not harmonious, in her view.

Al Waterson, who daily smoked two packs of cigarettes for years, was traumatized into quitting.

“One morning as I was brushing my teeth, I gagged so hard that I spit my toothbrush across


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