Smoking ban at popular beach parks passes first vote

Published On: Nov 14 2012 06:20:00 PM HST

Councilman Stanley Chang has done his share of beach cleanups in Waikiki.  And one of the most common finds is cigarette butts, not a few, but thousands.

"I personally have picked up more cigarette butts then I can count at community cleanups," said Chang. "We've received a number of complaints for several months now about cigarette butt litter, especially at our parks and beaches."

Sensing an opportunity, Chang introduced a bill to ban smoking at seven of Oahu's most popular beach parks on the South Shore and East Oahu. Three of the areas mentioned in Chang's bill actually encompass all of Kapiolani Park. The others are Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Beach, Kuhio Beach Park, Sandy Beach Park and Ala Moana Regional Park.

The smoking ban would apply to all areas of the beach parks highlighted in the bill, except one, Ala Moana.

"The parks that are listed in their entirety will be smoke free in their entirety, and one, Ala Moana Beach Park, is smoke free for the sandy area," explained Chang.

On Wednesday, Chang's bill crossed the first of three required hurdles, passing first reading by the full council by a vote of 6-2. The measure now heads to the Committee on Safety, Economic Development and Government Affairs for further debate.

Still, the possible smoking ban is not sitting well with German visitor Steffen Lips of Munich, who enjoys the sun and surf at Kuhio Beach.  Lips is enjoying his ninth vacation to Hawaii, and would probably return a 10th time if the smoking ban becomes law.    

However, Lips said he would likely look for beaches outside of Waikiki if he could no longer enjoy a cigarette while sunning on the sand.

"My next choice would definitely be Ehukai Beach Park; I love it up there," said Lips.  "I think I would aim for the North Shore."

Although the Hawaii Tourism Authority has not taken a position on Chang's bill, the immediate concern is the possible impact on visitor markets in Asia, where the rate of smoking is high. According to Japan Tobacco Inc., the rate of smoking among Japanese adults stood at 21.1 percent in May of this year.

But Waikiki beach boy Kevin Okimoto supports Chang's efforts.  He said every morning Kuhio Beach is littered with hundreds, if not thousands of cigarette butts.

"We rake the beach every day, so we find a lot of cigarette butts all over it – on the land (and) even on the ocean floating around," said Okimoto.

Chang also believes many Asian tourists would adapt to a smoking ban at some of Oahu's most popular beaches.

"In Asia, many streets have actually gone smokefree on their sidewalks and in their public spaces," said the councilman. "So, certainly this is not a trend confined to Hawaii, but all over the world."  

Smoking is already prohibited at Hanauma Bay in East Oahu, which is considered a nature preserve. In 2008, the Big Island passed a smoking ban at all county beaches, parks and recreational facilities.


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