Mayor signs smoking ban at certain beaches into law

Michael Zehner; Hawaii Smokers Alliance
Michael Zehner; Hawaii Smokers Alliance

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new law is designed to snuff out smoking at several beaches and parks on Oahu. The restrictions started on April 8, but police are focusing on education instead of enforcement.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 72 into law to expand the city's smoking ban. Michael Zehner testified against the measure as part of the Hawaii Smokers Alliance. He is upset that people won't be allowed to light up in certain spots.

"The fact that our civil liberties are in jeopardy. That it's discriminatory. It makes no distinction between other types of litter items and tobacco products," said Zehner.

The new rules prohibit smoking at Duke Kahanamoku Beach Park, Kapiolani Beach Park, Kapiolani Beach Park Center, Kapiolani Park, Kuhio Beach Park, Sandy Beach Park and beach areas of Ala Moana Regional Park. Supporters said the smoking ban would help prevent secondhand smoke and discarded cigarette butts.

"I think it's a good plan. Smoking is kind of bothersome to any of us that don't smoke, and more and more people are not smoking," said Canadian visitor Terry Eastoe.

A spokesman for the city, however, said the law can only be enforced at Ala Moana Beach for now. Since the other properties are owned by the state, the Honolulu City Council needs to approve a technical amendment before the Honolulu Police Department can issue citations at the remaining locations. The change is expected to take several months. Fines run up to $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second violation within a year, and $500 for additional offenses.

"I think enforcement is always a critical piece, but I also think that education is a big key, and that everybody kind of keeps each other in check," said Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii.

The city plans to put up signs about the restrictions. An HPD spokeswoman said authorities are hoping for voluntary compliance. Officers will focus on educating beach and park users for now.

"Based on experience with outdoor smoking bans in Hawaii, we believe the enforcement will continue to be a joke," said Zehner.

Proponents hope to eventually expand the smoking ban to beaches across Oahu, but critics want them to butt out.

"You feel like (you're) in a smoking ghetto or you're taking drugs or something like that. This is not okay. I thought this is the land of the free," said German visitor Robby Gierer.

"We're very happy that the bill was signed today and it has actually come to fruition. It was a lot of hard work," said Yamauchi.

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