Council approves ban on smoking in parks

Maui County Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to give final approval to a bill to ban smoking in county parks and on beaches.

The measure advances to the desk of Mayor Alan Arakawa, who can sign, veto or allow it to be enacted without his signature. He was visiting South Korea on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

County spokesman Rod Antone said he had no indication of what Arakawa’s plans were for the bill.

“We’ll find out next week,” he said, which is when the mayor will return from his overseas trip.

Before taking final action on the bill, council members heard more from its advocates.

Lauren Campbell, a marine biologist, surfer and beachgoer, brought plastic juice bottles full of hundreds of cigarette butts as “eye candy” to show the impact of pollution on county parks and beaches.

“Would you drink this?” she asked. “This is what our fish are drinking. This is what our sea turtles are swimming in. This is what our keiki are playing in. This is what I am surfing in.”

Campbell said the issue of banning smoking in county parks is larger than just cigarette butts, which she called “gateway litter” and the “first pieces of litter in a chain reaction of litter.”

Dean Otsuki, co-founder of Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai’i, said the situation is a public health issue.

“I feel that the public’s health would be better served by having all parks be tobacco-free,” he said. “I feel that Maui residents and visitors should have their health protected from toxic secondhand smoke and have the right to breathe clean air.”

Secondhand smoke releases in excess of 250 toxic chemicals and more than 50 of them are known to cause cancer, Otsuki said. Cigarette butts can smolder for more than three hours and release dangerous and toxic chemicals into the air, he added.

Otsuki said he has a personal connection with the issue because his father and mother both died of smoking-related illnesses – his father from emphysema and his mother from lung cancer.

“Had there been a smoking ban when they were younger, it could have encouraged them to quit smoking and prolong their lives,” he said.

Also Tuesday, council members gave initial approval to adopt a bill providing for the implementation program for the Maui Island Plan.

Initially, council members had a deadline to enact an implementation program no later than one year after the Maui Island Plan took effect on Dec. 28, 2012. However, the one-year deadline came and went, and council members extended the deadline to March 31 and later to May 29.

Planning Committee Chairman Don Couch urged passage of the bill on first reading Tuesday to allow the measure to come before the council on May 27 and to hold a nighttime public hearing, probably on May 12.

Answering critics, Couch said the measure can be amended, if necessary, on second and final reading.

The proposed implementation program has capital improvement, financial and implementation schedule elements, according to a committee report on the bill.

In other action, councilors:

* Advanced bills to name a field at the Mayor Eddie Tam Memorial Complex after the late William “Blee” Amoral Sr., a longtime recreation supervisor and athletic program organizer, and to name Kahului Pool in honor of the late longtime swimming coach Spencer Shiraishi Sr., founder and head coach of the Maui Swim Club. He was inducted into the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame in 2012. He died in August.

* Voted on second and final reading to approve a bill granting Arabella Gail Ark a conditional permit to allow client visitations and commercial sales at a ceramics studio on agricultural land in Hana.

* Gave initial approval to adding “canoeing” to the definition of “ocean recreational activity” in the Maui County Code.

* Brian Perry can be reached at