Butts Off Maui Beaches Bill Passes First Reading

April 4, 2014, 5:14 PM HST · Updated April 4, 6:02 PM
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Sad cigarette testifying before the Maui County Council. April 4, 2014.

Sad cigarette testifying before the Maui County Council. April 4, 2014.  Photo of televised testimony on Akakū, Channel 53.

By Wendy Osher

The Maui County Council passed legislation on first reading today that seeks the creation of tobacco-free zones at all Maui County parks and beaches.

The item was introduced by Council Member Don Guzman in February and advanced today with a vote of eight in favor and one member excused.

Guzman said the item came on the radar through interaction with the Maui District Student Council Organization when he did a presentation on how bills become law, and empowering youth by showing them a way they can have a voice.

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“Most of them are seniors and will be graduating this year. Other than having the right to vote, they needed to also be educated in how to use the system,” said Guzman.

“It’s not only for the health and environment, but for me, it was about the involvement of our youth — having an idea, pushing it through, and making a difference,” said Guzman.

John Wheeler, an avid surfer and surf instructor on Maui arrived at the council chamber dressed up as a cigarette butt. In his testimony he said, “I love the beach a lot and would hate to see it go downhill with the smoking. I think this bill is going to do a great deal to help to keep our beaches clean and keep the ʻāina good.”

“I’m arguing on behalf of the smoker himself. You make it inconvenient for them to smoke and they stop smoking. Big Island has passed such a thing Oʻahu has passed a similar thing; and I hope we will pass this thing,” said Maui district health officer, Dr. Lorrin Pang.

Dr. Pang said taxing cigarettes and implementing environmental restrictions are items that he believes work. “When I grew up, geez, guys used to smoke on the airplane, guys used to smoke on the bus, but now we have a norm change,” he said, “The norm change means it’s normal not to do it where you do normal things — go to the beach, don’t smoke. This is a very effective way to support this.”

In committee, Guzman said there were three issues that took about four hours to get through when discussing the legislation, including: (1) a golf course exemption; (2) having a smoking zone designation; and (3) addressing the use of e-cigarettes.

Of those, the zone designation was withdrawn, the e-cig use was vetted out because of lack of a real definition, and the golf course exemption was a sticking point that received a 50-50 vote with bare quorum. According to Guzman, the measure was passed out of committee without the golf course exemption, but he said that can still be discussed in council.

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