No butts at the park

LIHU‘E — On Wednesday, the Kaua‘i County Council introduced a bill to ban smoking at county parks, including the multi-use path on Kaua‘i’s Eastside.

Draft Bill 2437 passed first reading, and is now scheduled for a public hearing June 13. It will still have to go through the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee before going back to full council for second and final reading.

Bills in first reading usually don’t gather much attention or public testimony. But on Wednesday officials from the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i testified at the council chambers, armed with some eerie visuals of what can happen to beaches and parks when cigarette butts are flicked on the ground.

Coalition policy advocacy director Jessica Yamauchi, who flew from O‘ahu specially for the council meeting, showed council members a jar containing a mud-like carcinogenic ball, approximately 4 inches in diameter.

The dark-brown object was actually what happened to cigarette butts which decomposed after being left untouched for seven years inside the jar. The butts had been collected at a beach in 2005, according to Valerie Saiki, Kaua‘i’s community coordinator at the coalition.

There are an estimated 9,000 smokers on Kaua‘i, who smoke an average of 10 to 20 cigarettes a day, and leaving behind about 25,000 pounds of cigarette butts, according to Saiki.

She said not all those cigarette butts are improperly disposed off, but a good portion of it ends up on the ground of county parks and beaches, leaching at least 50 kinds of carcinogens into the ground where children play.

The fine for non-compliance is $100 for first offense, increasing an additional $100 for each subsequent offense, up to $500.

Visit www.tobaccofreehawaii.org and www.kauai.gov for more information.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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