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Feb 19

VIEWPOINT: Youth movement inspires legislation

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Office of Council Services


Published on The Maui News February 18, 2014
By DON GUZMAN , for The Maui News

In response to the request of Maui County students and partner organizations for tobacco free parks and beaches, I have introduced a bill prohibiting the use of tobacco and tobacco products in Maui County parks.  It is expected that the bill will be referred to a standing committee for further discussion at the Council’s Friday, February 21, 2014 meeting.

This bill is a step in a direction that will play a part in promoting a healthy lifestyle within our County parks and recreational facilities.  We’ve taken a broad look at what can be done in this area and this proposed legislation is in response to what our youth and community has identified as doable.

Recently, Maui students collected over 14,000 cigarette butts from eleven of Maui’s beaches within a two-hour period.  This demonstrates how important it is that we examine steps that can be taken now to prevent 14,000 more from accumulating.
The “Butts Off Our Beaches” cleanup was spearheaded by Gina Marzo, a junior of Maui Preparatory Academy as a class project and grew to include the Maui District Student Council Organization, the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, O`ahu–based Sustainable Coastlines, the Maui Surfrider Foundation, and Community Work Day-Malama Maui Nui.    
Following a meeting with the Maui District Student Council Organization it is clear to me that this youth driven legislation will also provide an opportunity for the students to learn about and actively engage in the process of enacting policy in Maui County.  
This is a shining example of how an idea, youth empowerment and perseverance can blossom into a movement to initiate and affect change.  The students conducted a thorough job of gathering the data to back their request, and I applaud their efforts to address their concerns by taking action and encourage others to follow their lead.  From this point forward the legislative process is in motion and I urge the students to stay engaged through active participation as this bill moves forward.            
The proposed legislation comes on the heels of a nationwide movement concerned with health and environmental pollutants.  According to the Blue Ocean Society, paper and tobacco are biodegradable, however cigarette filters are not.  Nearly all cigarette filters are made of a form of plastic called cellulose acetate; and these filters take many years to decompose and often find their way into nearby waterways, storm drains and ultimately our oceans.
Friday’s Council meeting begins at 9 a.m. and will be held in the Council Chamber, 8th floor of the Kalana O Maui building, 200 S.High St., Wailuku.  Testimony for the bill may be submitted to and should reference County Communication 14-49.

* Don S. Guzman holds the Maui County Council's Kahului residency seat. He is chairman of the council's Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture and Recreation Committee.

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