Smoking ban would cover sand
HILO » The Hawaii County Council is moving toward approving a ban on smoking at all Big Island beaches, parks and recreation areas.
The council's nine members, meeting as the council's parks and recreation committee, gave initial approval to expanding an outdoor smoking ban that now applies only to Kahaluu Beach Park.
That ban, passed last year, resulted from a campaign by a group of middle school students wanting to protect marine life from cigarette butts after they collected more than 2,000 butts from the Kahaluu beach in just 30 minutes as part of a science project.
The council is expected to take up the bill for a full-council vote at its next meeting on Feb. 21.
"Making smoking illegal in public places is very important, and we all support that," North Kona Councilman Angel Pilago said.
Hilo Councilman Stacy Higa, however, cast a lone vote against the bill, saying it impinges on individual liberties. He proposed designating smoking areas so park visitors don't have to go out onto the road to smoke.
The bill would place fines at $100 and also include parking lots.
Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole, who described herself as a former smoker, said she would support the ban despite objections from family members and friends who smoke.
"Sometimes we got to do things as leaders that are not going to be very popular," Naeole said.
Kau Councilman Bob Jacobson said the council received nearly 70 letters and messages supporting the ban, with only one opposing it.
Cigarette butts are the top polluters of Hawaii's beaches, said Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii.
"Once again, Hawaii County is out leading the way toward better health, so we commend you," she said.
But some smokers object to such an ordinance.
"What about the dangers of car emissions, barbecue grills and legal backyard burning?" Clifford Souza asked the council. "We don't need bills that take away our personal freedoms."
He said it was inconsistent for motorists to be allowed to emit exhaust from their cars next to store entrances and other public places, when smokers have to stay 20 feet away.