Hawaii Hits Residents with Wave of New Bans

Published September 16, 2015

Hawaii is banning tobacco and e-cigarette use in all city- and state-owned parks and beaches, saying the ban will help preserve the state’s scenic natural beauty and cut down on littering.

Joe Kent, a research assistant at the Grassroots Policy Institute of Hawaii, says the ban ignores the facts about e-cigarettes. The new state law, signed into law in June, took effect on July 1.

“There is absolutely no reason to ban e-cigarettes,” Kent said. “Not only is there no litter produced by an e-cigarette, but there aren’t the same detrimental effects as from secondhand smoke.”

Allowing private companies to manage beachfronts would do more to preserve the scenic value of the state’s many beaches than restricting the use of otherwise legal products, Kent says.

“All of Hawaii’s beaches are public, according to law, and must be open to access by the public,” Kent said. “However, many public beaches in Hawaii are privately managed and maintained by hotels, while still offering full public access. The privately managed beaches are, informally, cleaner.”

Litter-ally the Wrong Problem

Kent says the new ban is attacking the wrong cause.

“The biggest issue with debris on beaches is actually litter that washes in from the ocean,” he said. “I think it’s a bit easier for sandwich wrappers, disposable plates, or other dishes to be blown away and left on the beach than cigarettes. However, even this kind of litter can be cleaned up, if the price is right. This is something that private hotels or nonprofits are willing to pay for.”

‘Complete Intolerance’

Michael Marlow, a professor of economics at California Polytechnic State University, says the ban is motivated by telling people how to live their lives.

“Despite years of warnings concerning health problems, banning advertising on TV and radio, and repeated tax hikes, the new ban reflects a complete intolerance toward citizens who have continued to resist the good intentions of the public health authorities,” Marlow said.

Marlow says he thinks other health-related bans are in the works for Hawaiians.

“Economists rarely believe bans, especially of legal substances, are efficient,” Marlow said. “They are a last resort of those attempting to monitor and change other people’s behaviors. When jurisdictions commit to one type of ban, there is the expectation that bans on other substances will follow.”

Rudy Takala ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.