Ray Pendleton Water Ways

Ray Pendleton

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Smoking ban
a good idea for
isle beaches

As veteran Water Ways readers know, this column attempts to focus on all of the aspects of recreational boating. Naturally, the water surrounding our island home -- and its quality -- is a part of that focus.

It's for that reason that activities like last month's beach and waterway cleanup called "Get the Drift and Bag It" deserve regular attention.

In fact, even columns promoting a more comprehensive city street sweeping program have appeared here because of the obvious pollution progression from street to storm drain to waterway.

Several years ago I described watching a guy dump his car's cigarette-butt-filled ashtray into the street at a stoplight to give an example of such pollution progression.

It takes little imagination to picture how the next rain will carry those butts to the curb, then down a storm drain and out to the ocean.

Pollution experts tell us it's because cigarette butts are so small that most smokers don't feel guilty when they toss them out into our environment.

Nevertheless, those small butts make up in quantity what they lack in size. In the last coastal cleanup, they comprised the largest category -- 34.3 percent -- of all items collected.

That's why an Associated Press story in the Star-Bulletin last month caught my eye. It told of the seaside town of Solana Beach, Calif., that had passed an ordinance banning smoking on its public beaches.

According to the reporter, a group of high school students, after asking the city to declare September a nonsmoking month on the beaches and in the parks, subsequently pushed for the permanent ban, which was unanimously supported by the city council.

The mayor of Solana Beach confirmed the need for the ban by pointing to a recent cleanup that picked up more cigarette butts than any other refuse item collected, the journalist reported.

As the first city in California to pass such a law, and with a $100 fine for first-time offenders, its acceptance and enforcement will surely be monitored by other beach communities.

In fact, one Los Angeles city councilman has already been inspired by Solana Beach to introduce a motion that would ban smoking on his city's 10 miles of beaches, the reporter noted.

The councilman had also participated in a beach cleanup with his children recently, the reporter added.

"We spent our time on our hands and knees picking up other people's cigarette butts," he told the reporter.

"A decade ago, when it was first proposed that smoking be banned in restaurants, they said it couldn't be done," the councilman said. "Look around today. You can't smoke in a restaurant, and the world hasn't stopped spinning."

The ordinance went into effect just two days ago, so it's a bit soon to learn how it's being accepted, but it was interesting to note that the reporter mentioned a similar ban at Hanauma Bay.

Could it be the time has come for Honolulu Hale to expand the smoking ban to all of Oahu's beaches? Or, better yet, might Hawaii's legislators pass a statewide prohibition?

Compelling reasons to do so can be found every day and on nearly every beach.

After a short afternoon stroll along Waikiki's famous shoreline and viewing the abundance of butts discarded there, it would seem to be a no-brainer.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at


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