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12-year-old takes lead in campaign to ban smoking on Maui beaches

By Staff | Dec 31, 2009


Teak McAfee is the BOMB.

Literally, the 12-year-old Sacred Hearts student is the maestro of the Butts off Maui Beaches (BOMB) movement.

McAfee is the daughter of Eden and Kevin McAfee, owners of Kapalua Dive Company.

“I go to the beach all the time, and I see cigarettes in the sand a lot,” the youthful environmentalist explained.

“I wondered what happened when those things get in the water to the marine life,” Teak continued. “Like does it do anything? So I decided to research it, and I found out that it kills marine life. So I wanted to stop it.” 

That was a year ago.

Since then, the eager honor student has launched a website, www.buttsoffmauisbeaches.com <http://www.buttsoffmauisbeaches.com/> , incorporating a petition into her campaign.

She’s working with Sacred Hearts teacher, Beau Ewan.

“She was a student of mine two years ago. She’s in seventh grade now. Her parents came to me, wanting her to do some sort of service project. It’s basically been us, you know, doing the research, building the website. It was all inspired by her. It’s all her idea, and I facilitate it,” Ewan commented.

A joint plea on the website reads: “We created BOMB, Butts off Maui’s Beaches, because, as regular beachgoers, we’re concerned about the alarming problem posed by cigarette butts.”

Research backs their premise.

Cigarettes are the most littered item worldwide, with over 4.5 trillion discarded annually. 

During the 2000 Coastal Cleanup Day, in just one day, 230,000 cigarette butts were collected from California beaches.

“Besides humans not appreciating it,” the dynamic duo claims, “marine animals and the beaches don’t either. When a cigarette butt is floating out in the water, a turtle can mistake it for food and eat it, which causes asphyxiation. The cigarette butts threaten coral reefs and other animals, too. Littering is unfair to the environment; marine animals shouldn’t have to suffer from human’s careless actions.”

Composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic, cigarette butts are basically not biodegradable and pose multiple threats to the environment.

“People don’t really realize what they’re throwing down. It’s all the different chemicals that are being contained in this tiny, tiny piece of waste that they can just throw on the sand. All the chemicals that are not going into the smoker are going into the cigarette butt, which are then going onto the sand, which can then go into a number of different marine species. It’s the stuff that the smoker doesn’t want that’s what they are getting rid of,” Ewan explained.

McAfee is not just advocating awareness; she’s wants action.

“We want to make a law that bans smoking on Maui’s beaches- the less litter there is, the more beautiful they remain.”

“We actually spoke to Jo Anne Johnson, who is a council member here on Maui,” Ewan said, “and she said that the best thing to do was to start a petition.”

“I was so pleased that she contacted me to ask for my input,” Johnson remarked.

“Petitions are a good first step to both educate the public about a specific issue and also to see if what you are trying to accomplish is supported by the wider community. It is also very useful in gathering support for legislative measures that will help resolve problems…and I do think that she is being both environmentally responsible and also pro-active in her approach to problem solving,” the West Maui council woman added

The legal pathway to prohibit smoking on beaches is a long and challenging road but doable.

California has a number of smoke-free beaches and piers, including Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Malibu, Newport Beach, San Clemente, Santa Monica, Seal Beach and Solano Beach.

Other communities across the nation are considering the same legislation, like New Hampshire, Maine and New Jersey.

Teak is committed to this goal.

“I think Teak’s known since the beginning, and her parents have known since the beginning, that this is a long-term project… something that she knows isn’t going to be resolved this year or next year. It’s something that living here, growing up here, it’s something she is going to continue to pursue throughout middle school and into high school and do as much as she can to tackle the problem. It’s something she’s been aware of from day one,” he said.

According to Teak, about 250 have signed the petition thus far. 

“I think we need to do a little bit more broadcasting to get more signatures,” she said.

They’re asking for support.

“We need signatures to show support from the general public and that includes all people who love the ocean, not just those on Maui. The ocean touches all corners of the earth and needs to be protected from cigarette butts.”