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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ban near on smoking in cars

By Jason Armstrong
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Motorists should not subject children to second-hand tobacco smoke, Hawai'i County Council members decided Tuesday by voting 5-3 to outlaw the practice.

Smoking would be illegal in any motor vehicle occupied by someone less than 18 years old, according to the bill from Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole-Beason.

The ban is to protect kids, said Naeole-Beason, who has often credited her children for helping her quit smoking.

The measure now goes to Mayor Billy Kenoi, who may choose to sign it into law, allow it to take effect without his approval or veto it.

Kenoi told the Tribune-Herald that he supports the bill's intent of protecting children's health and safety.

"I will look very favorably on it," he said by phone following the council's action.

Noting that he's an attorney, Kenoi said he wants to examine the bill to ensure it's enforceable, is not applied unfairly and has no vague or objectionable language.

"Absent that, I'll be glad to sign that bill," he added.

The ban would take effect 90 days after it becomes law.

The council's debate shifted between the health effects of smoking and the acceptable level of government intrusion in people's private lives.

Hilo council members Donald Ikeda and Dennis Onishi again joined Hāmākua Councilman Dominic Yagong in opposing the measure. All had voted against the bill last month when it was before a council committee, although Ikeda supported it April 7 at the council level.

Onishi said his position fell on the side of personal rights, adding that he feels the bill would make government too controlling.

Ka'ū Councilman Guy Enriques, who had voted for the bill previously, was absent when the voting occurred Tuesday.

Supporters included the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, which lobbied for the smoking ban.

"As a mother and ex-smoker, protecting my children was, and still remains, the most important thing to me," Cecily Nago said in written testimony backing the ban. "Exposing children to the harmful effects of cigarette smoke is just plain wrong."

The Boys & Girls Club of Hilo also provided testimony in support of the bill. Director Jay Ihara included comments collected from several children.

"I appreciate it (and) personally like it because my parents are both addicted" to tobacco, fifth-grader Adrian Aragon was quoted as saying in written comments submitted by Ihara.