Coughing ends birthday message

LIHU’E — When members of the Tobacco Free Kaua’i Coalition found out that Phillip Morris tobacco company was celebrating the 50th birthday of Marlboro cigarettes, they decided to send company leaders a birthday greeting.

The coalition members gathered around two five-gallon jugs of discarded butts they had recently collected at Lydgate Park with the help of about 80 students, and with various posters extolling the dangers of smoking, the group recorded themselves singing “Happy Birthday,” punctuating the familiar song with bouts of coughing, gasping, and finishing with Rhonda Liu collapsing from the lack of oxygen.

The group members sent the recording along with color photos of the collected butts to company representatives.

“One day, one park, 75 kids, and three hours,” is how John Hunt described the group members’ efforts that resulted in nearly two full five-gallon plastic jugs that are on display in the lobby of the state Department of Health Kaua’i District Health Office on ‘Umi Street in Lihu’e.

Mary Williamson of the American Cancer Society said the jugs will be relocated to Kukui Grove Center’s center-stage area next Saturday, Nov. 12 for the Great American Smokeout program that will take place there between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Rhonda Liu explained that the collection did not represent all of the butts they found, as there were more located under parked cars and more inaccessible areas they could not reach safely.

Liu said, “Cigarette butts are made of plastic, and take many years to break down in the environment. Cigarette butts are the most common form of plastic litter on the beaches of Hawai’i and throughout the world.”

The representative from Tobacco Free Kaua’i Coalition added, “Cigarette litter impacts the environment in many ways, including the leaching of toxic chemicals which can kill small animals. The discarding of lighted cigarette butts causes fires, and the butts can be ingested by small children.”

She suggested that smokers carry a personal ash tray, and dispose of their butts properly.

The message they are hoping to convey to Phillip Morris officials is to ask them to educate smokers to not litter, and dispose of butts properly.


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