Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, March 1, 1999

Alternatives to a
total ban on fireworks

SNAP, crackle, pop! Thus far in 1999, nothing is more divisive in Hawaii than the fiery debate over a possible fireworks ban -- which certainly would squelch our traditionally smoky and noisy New Year's Eve celebrations in the islands.

Last Wednesday's Honolulu Star-Bulletin/NBC Hawaii News 8 poll, in fact, showed a decided split in the community, with 48 percent of respondents supporting a Senate proposal to outlaw fireworks beginning Jan. 2 of next year, 47 percent in opposition of such a ban, and only a scant 5 percent undecided.

Fireworks Last month, a less scientific but popular survey in our Star-Bulletin online edition elicited 817 responses. In that poll, 38 percent said aerials and firecrackers should be legal, while the remainder believed that change of some kind was necessary -- ranging from limiting the quantity of fireworks that consumers can buy to instituting an outright ban, the latter favored by 23 percent.

Some of our online respondents felt so strongly about their opinions, that they wrote mini-letters to the editor in support of their feelings. A surprising number even offered up some fascinating suggestions to keep the holidays in Hawaii happy while encouraging some consumer restraint. Their ideas included:

bullet Education. According to Robert Butler of Hanalei on Kauai, "Education is the key. If folks buy fireworks, make them go to a class immediately upon purchase, before they can take delivery of the product. Show them true-to-life bloody pictures of those who have been maimed by fireworks. Just the idea of sitting there for an hour, in the midst of all the frenzy, will slow a great deal of the purchases."

bullet Taxation. "Increase the tax on fireworks by 150 percent at the retail level, while being careful not to penalize the professional fireworks display artist," suggested "Earl" of Ewa Beach. "If fireworks cost more, citizens will use them less and won't just hand them out to the kids. When using anything expensive, people automatically become more conservative, such as with the high price of gasoline."

bullet Assisting the authorities. Warren Lazaro of Waipahu proposed, "Establish a cash reward program that lets neighbors report on other neighbors who violate the fireworks ban."

bullet Communication. "Have a community listing of street addresses where residents would be annoyed by fireworks due to health problems, old age or who just don't want them around their homes," urged Iris Latronic of Haleiwa. "And enforce common courtesy by knowing how your neighbors feel before popping firecrackers."

bullet Consideration of alternatives. "If the intent of fireworks is to scare away evil spirits, then how about having an evening of loud drumming?" asked Jeff Rogers of Honolulu. "This would be far more ecologically minded and may be much scarier than lighting firecrackers. The money spent on fireworks could buy a whole lot of drums, and some big ones, too!"

IN a Feb. 12 column on this page, I beseeched the people of Hawaii to find a compromise on this issue, since both sides have valid arguments that should be respected. Yes, this is a long-held island tradition but, no, it cannot continue unabated since the lighting of cheap thrills has become a hazardous nuisance.

Legislators, rack your own brains and continue to ask the citizens of this state for more guidance and innovative ways of dealing with this divisive controversy. An answer exists other than a complete ban or a pyrotechnic free-for-all.

This snap, crackle, pop can't be good for whatever aloha spirit hasn't been extinguished by the recession.

Fireworks Scientific Poll Results

Fireworks Online Survey Results

Hawaii Revised Statutes on Fireworks

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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