KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) – A city inspector has told the owner of a new tobacco shop on North King Street in Kalihi if he does not remove a large sign from an exterior wall, he may be fined for violating Honolulu's sign law.
The shop is called Smoke ½ Price. The two line sign may be best described as a banner that appears to be about '6 tall and '15 wide. It reads "Smoke ½ Price, 200 Smoke $29.99."
The city did not divulge the source of the complaint it receiver. Hawaii News Now also received a complaint, so it contacted the Outdoor Circle and various health oriented anti-smoking groups to get their take on the sign.
The group Real Hawaii Youth Movement Exposing the Tobacco Industry objects to the sign, not only because it is to large, but because it is less than a block from Farrington High School.
"The issue is that young people are walking by it on the way to school and on their way back from school so tons of young people are being exposed to the advertising of tobacco. That has a normalizing effect on young people. They believe that more young people are using tobacco than actually are," said Nicole Sutton, Project Coordinator for the organization.
The Outdoor Circle said based on its understanding of city law the sign has several flaws. First and foremost – it is just too big.
"A store that is a city block long can have a much larger sign than a store that's only a 15 foot store front. But all of them have to be permitted, and none of them permitted would ever look like that one," said Bob Loy, Director of Environmental Programs for the Outdoor Circle.
Loy said the sign is also illegal because it lists a specific price. And he said banners like that can only be hung from businesses twice a year for no longer than seven consecutive days.
Hawaii News Now spoke to the shop owner, Calvin Kim. He declined an on-camera interview, but said his employees ask every customer for identification to prove they are old enough to purchase tobacco. He said he would never sell to minors. And he pointed out that tobacco products are sold all over the neighborhood including at two establishments just across the street.
Kim said he did not know the sign violated city law and pointed to other shops in the neighborhood with signs he suspects are illegal.
While we talked with Kim city inspector Edgardo Endrina entered the store. Endrina had said the city had received a complaint about the sign just one day earlier. He came to check it out, and after a quick look asked Kim to remove the sign.
"This sign right here looks way too big to be permitted to have a sign permit. And the material that they use it's considered a wind sign (banner). And wind signs are not allowed," Endrina told Hawaii News Now.
While in the neighborhood inspector Endrina told other merchants their signs are illegal. Some were removed their signs immediately.
Kim said he will wait to receive written notice of violation from the city. He said once he does, he will take down his sign. If he does not comply with the city notice of violation within three days, he will be subject to a daily fine.
"The bottom line here is if anyone wants to put up a sign, they should check with the city … because it can be illegal," Endrina said.
Endrina said there are easily hundreds, and possible thousands of illegal signs on Oahu.