Tobacco-Free Beaches Public Awareness Campaign

Someone holding a lot of littered cigarettes.
A PWF volunteer displays cigarette butts found during the Kahului Harbor Cleanup. (Photo Credit: PWF)

Pacific Whale Foundation teamed up with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to launch a public awareness campaign to inform, educate, and involve the public in marine debris awareness and policy focused on tobacco-free beaches in Maui, Hawaii.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant

Region: Pacific Islands

Project Dates: August 2016 - January 2018

Who is involved?
Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) launched a public awareness campaign about tobacco-free beaches in Maui, Hawaii through a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant. PWF worked with the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i, Maui Hotel and Lodging Associations, Maui Hui Malama Learning Center, Kamehameha Schools, Surfrider Foundation Maui, Lokelani Schools, Haleakala Waldorf School, Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena Elementary, and Tito’s Giving Spirit Campaign to combine legislation implementation with public outreach and engagement to reduce the number of cigarette butts found on Maui beaches.

What is the project and why is it important?
Cigarette butts have continuously been found as one of the top ten debris types in Hawaii during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. In April 2014, Maui County passed a tobacco-free beaches and parks bill that prohibits the use of tobacco products, including cigarette smoking, in designated County areas. One of the benefits from this bill was thought to be the reduction of cigarette butt litter along Maui’s coastlines. However, PWF completed a shoreline monitoring study along several beaches in Maui and found that there was little immediate impact on the amount of tobacco-related products found on beaches before and after the bill was passed.

In order to address this problem, PWF began a public awareness campaign to increase public knowledge about this specific marine debris issue. They created public service announcements (PSAs); developing materials to educate the public and tourists on the tobacco-free beaches and parks bill; and giving presentations and handouts at their naturalist outreach stations, educational eco-tours, ocean stores, keiki (kid) whale watches, ocean camps, and through the “volunteer on vacation” program. PWF also translated their printed materials to Japanese in order to also reach the many Japanese tourists that visit Maui beaches. In addition, PWF’s Maui Whale Festival in February 2017 reached thousands of visitors with educational messaging on marine debris, with an emphasis on cigarette butts. During this festival, PWF hosted a “Tidal Trash Treasures Art Contest” to promote marine debris outreach and education. The entry fee for the contest: picking up 25 littered cigarette butts.