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How do you get an entire state to stop smoking on the beach?

May 29 2014 | Beaches, Campaigns, Culture Shifting, Plastics,

Anyone who's ever done a beach cleanup knows that there are lots (sometimes a grotesque amount) of cigarette butts on the beach.

In an hour and a half, a beach cleanup can pick up more than 10,000 cigarette butts. I'm guessing we all think that's pretty gross.

How did all those butts get on our beaches? The answer points to one of those holdover habits from previous eras... it used to be ok to throw your cigarette butt on the ground. Once it's on the ground it finds it's way to the ocean via rain and waterslide-esqe storm drains. Eventually butts find their way onto our beaches. 

This matters because we're talking about plastic (which doesn't break down or biodegrade) and is laced with toxins (those carcinogens that give people cancer are still in the cigarette butts). There is nothing positive about a cigarette butt on the beach... let alone thousands.

So how does one tackle such a problem and then scale it to the State level?

One way is via building awareness. Surfrider has a Hold Onto Your Butt campaign which offers an onramp to help people understand some of the above-mentioned issues and why they should not litter. However, as we all know - awareness campaigns only get you so far. 

Another way to tackle this problem is to offer trash receptacles. When someone is about to litter, give them an alternative... a place to discard their butts. 

Another way, perhaps the best way, is to pass a smoking ban on beaches. i.e. when you ask repeatedly, offer solutions and the problem persists then you pass a law to address the problem. 

The Hawaiian island of Oahu passed an on-beach smoking ban earlier this year and the early signs are all positive. Efforts are now being made to expand this to the other islands (this is the same way the all-State single-use plastics ban was passed).

It's very possible that the state of Hawaii will be the first state to have a state-wide ban on smoking on the beaches. 

There must be a Hawaiian word for this... "aina" comes to mind. It means speaks to the native Hawaiians' identities being entwined with and respecting the land and waters.

Great to see this momentum.

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