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Student’s good idea leads to a county law

By Staff | May 1, 2014

Congratulations to Maui Preparatory Academy junior Gina Marzo, whose idea for a class assignment evolved into a grassroots campaign among Maui students to get “Butts Off Our Beaches” (see “Maui Prep student leads charge to ban cigarettes from county parks and beaches,” April 17 Lahaina News).

The Maui County Council last week voted 8-0 to pass Bill 24, prohibiting tobacco use and products in county parks and facilities, including beaches.

“It is good fortune that on Earth Day, Maui County has taken a step forward in protecting our beautiful coastal environment and promoting the health of our residents and visitors,” said Councilman Don S. Guzman, who took on the issue and agreed to sponsor the bill in his committee.

Students and volunteer organizations collected more than 18,000 cigarette butts along Maui County’s shorelines during the past few months.

Faced with the disgusting numbers and encouraged by the initiative of the students, Guzman said he introduced the bill in response to the countywide cleanup effort that was named “Butts Off Our Beaches.”

Marzo, 16, called the legislation’s passage a “monumental movement of power and passion.”

Under the bill, persons engaged in smoking or the use of tobacco products in county parks are subject to a fine of up to $500.

It’s doubtful that police will be out writing tickets. The new law should raise awareness though; hopefully, beach users will see new signs and not litter.

“My hope is that this law will be largely self-regulated,” Guzman said. “Community coalitions, such as the Maui District Student Council Organization, Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, Pacific Whale Foundation and the Surfrider Foundation have done an outstanding job galvanizing the community and raising awareness.”

Sonya Niess, Maui coordinator for the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, said strong community partnerships are in place to ensure the success of this bill.

Dean Otsuki, a volunteer with Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii, said public-service announcements, signage and posters will be put in place to educate the public, at no cost to the county.

Beginning with an idea by a West Maui student, Maui County is the third in Hawaii to enact a tobacco-free parks ordinance.