STAR-BULLETIN / MARCH 2007
Smoking at Big Island beach parks and recreational facilities would be banned under a bill just approved by the Hawaii County Council.
Big Isle Council OKs smoking ban in parks
The law would be the first to apply to all facilities on an island
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KAILUA-KONA » The Hawaii County Council voted 7-2 yesterday to approve a ban on smoking at Big Island beach parks and recreational facilities.
Although two beaches in Hawaii are currently smoke-free -- the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on Oahu and Kahaluu Beach Park on the Big Island -- the bill is the first countywide initiative in the state.
Mayor Harry Kim, concerned about enforcement issues, has said he likely would veto the bill. However, the nine-member Council could override a veto with a two-thirds vote.
Kim's administration had suggested the Council consider a limited ban, designated smoking areas and butt disposal containers.
The measure passed after more than two dozen people testified in its favor.
In addition to parks and beaches, the measure would also ban smoking at the municipal golf course, rodeo arenas, the Panaewa Equestrian Complex and the Hilo drag strip.
Hilo Councilman J Yoshimoto, who introduced the islandwide ban, said the measure would improve health and the quality of life on the Big Island.
"There is no right to smoke. It's a privilege. You can still smoke in your homes, you can still smoke in your cars. But it will affect your convenience of smoking," Yoshimoto said.
The councilman said he was most concerned about protecting children's health, setting a positive example and preventing cigarette butt litter.
"It blows my mind how we let this happen," he said.
Hilo Councilman Stacy Higa, who opposed the bill, said he questioned restricting people's choices.
"This is not the right way to go. Until the federal government outlaws it, it's legal," he said. "It comes down to freedom of choice."
Several students testified in support of the ban.
Nosia Shammy, a Kealakehe Intermediate School fifth-grader, said she worries about people and the environment.
"I'm not here to tell adults what not to do, but to let them know that we care about what happens if everyone chooses to smoke," she said. "Can you imagine what it would be like if adults could smoke wherever they liked? That would be so unhealthy."
Suzanne Frazer, co-founder of the Honolulu-based group Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii, said after the vote that she hoped a Big Island ban is just the start.
"We're trying to get smoke-free beaches all across the state," she said. "We hope this will lead the way for other counties to take the same initiative."