AHUKINI — Dean Otsuki was disappointed that he picked up 700 cigarette butts in the parking lot of Wailua River State Park over the weekend.
That’s because legally, they’re not supposed to be there.
Smoking has been illegal in Hawaii state parks since a ban was passed in 2015, one that started with Otsuki and Suzanne Frazer, co-founders of the Oahu organization Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.).
In 2015, they pounded the pavement in Oahu and across neighbor islands, found partners in the cause, and even hosted cleanups on Kauai, where they collected thousands of cigarette butts from state parks to present to the Legislature.
The ban passed. They celebrated. Then, they started working on bringing the public up to speed on the new law — and checking in with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to make sure signs were put up in state parks to alert the public.
They say they’ve had problems getting approval for educational materials over the past few years, but what they saw on Kauai over the weekend — in multiple locations — was “devastating.”
“We just came back from Ahukini Pier, that’s state parks land, and it looked as bad as it did in 2015,” Frazer said Monday morning during a drop-in visit to The Garden Island newspaper. “There are butts strewn all over, there’s no sign telling anyone it’s a smoke-free park. That place is neglected by the state.”
At Wailua, they acknowledged there is a sign advising “NO SMOKING,” but Frazer and Otsuki don’t think it’s adequate.
“It’s hard to read, it’s small and it’s only posted in one place, right by where you sign up for tours, not in the parking lot where everyone smokes,” Otsuki said. “It should be very clear that this is a smoke-free park, but it’s hard to read.”
DLNR did not respond to questions about the smoking ban enforcement before deadline.
Kauai Police Department spokeswoman Kim Tamaoka confirmed parks are under the jurisdiction of DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.
“While DOCARE would take priority of such reports, KPD does have the authority to enforce the law if the responding officer has enough probable cause to do so,” Tamaoka said in a Monday statement.
Besides cigarette butts being unsightly litter, Frazer and Otsuki point out the butts themselves are made with tiny, plastic woven fibers. Those fibers don’t break down; instead they join the plethora of microplastics in the environment that can affect wildlife. Because of their impact to the environment, there are movements nationwide to ban cigarettes and their filters completely.
Frazer and Otsuki were invited to speak on the topic of microplastics — specifically those present in packaged items — for the Kauai Vegetarian Society monthly meeting and dropped by state parks while they were on island.
Their plan was to continue their momentum and direct it toward affecting a smoking ban in Kauai county parks.
“We were hoping to see clean state parks so we could go to the county and use them as an example,” Frazer said. “But we come back here four years later and it’s the same as it was. So disappointing. We worked hard to get that law passed.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org