Movement inspires legislation

In response to the request of Maui County students and partner organizations for tobacco-free parks and beaches, I have introduced a bill prohibiting the use of tobacco and tobacco products in Maui County parks.

It is expected that the bill will be referred to a standing committee for further discussion during the council’s Friday meeting.

This bill is a step forward in promoting a healthy lifestyle within our county parks and recreational facilities. I’ve taken a broad look at what can be done in this area and this proposed legislation is in response to what our youth and community have identified as doable.

Recently, Maui students collected more than 14,000 cigarette butts from 11 of Maui’s beaches within a two-hour period. This demonstrates how important it is that we examine steps that can be taken now to prevent 14,000 more from accumulating.

The “Butts Off Our Beaches” cleanup was spearheaded by Gina Marzo, a junior at Maui Preparatory Academy, as a class project and grew to include the Maui District Student Council Organization, the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, Oahubased Sustainable Coastlines, the Maui Surfrider Foundation and Community Work Day-Malama Maui Nui.

Following a meeting with the Maui District Student Council Organization, it is clear to me that this youth-driven legislation will also provide an opportunity for the students to learn about and actively engage in the process of enacting policy in Maui County.

This is a shining example of how an idea, youth empowerment and perseverance can blossom into a movement to initiate change. The students conducted a thorough job of gathering the data to back their request and I applaud their efforts to address their concerns by taking action, and encourage others to follow their lead. The legislative process is in motion and I urge the students to stay engaged through active participation as this bill moves forward.

The proposed legislation comes on the heels of a nationwide movement concerned with health and environmental pollutants. According to the Blue Ocean Society, paper and tobacco are biodegradable, however cigarette filters are not. Nearly all cigarette filters are made of a form of plastic called cellulose acetate and these filters take many years to decompose and often find their way into waterways, storm drains and ultimately our oceans.

Friday’s council meeting begins at 9 a.m. in Council Chambers on the eighth floor of the Kalana O Maui building at 200 S. High St. in Wailuku. Testimony for the bill may be submitted to and should reference County Communication 14-49.

* Don S. Guzman holds the Maui County Council’s Kahului residency seat. He is the chairman of the council’s Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture and Recreation Committee.