Aug. 30, 2007 — -- Vacationing in Hawaii conjures up images of palm trees, surfing, hidden beaches and ocean-fresh air.
And a new campaign to draw Japanese visitors back to the island is pushing another less than healthful image — smoking.
Yes, that's right, smoking.
The Smoking With Aloha campaign is Hawaii Tourism Japan's attempt to clear the confusion over the Smoke-Free Hawaii law passed in November. It includes announcements in Japanese publications explaining that the new law has led to a "healthier and cleaner" Hawaii, but not an entirely smoke-free state.
Though this seems to be sending the wrong message — come to Hawaii and light up — Marsha Weinert, tourism liaison for the state of Hawaii, says the campaign is just addressing the law's misinterpretation overseas.
Japanese tourists have been confused about Hawaii's smoking legislation since an inaccurate news story was published in Japan, suggesting a ban on lighting up in the whole state, she said.
"The campaign has nothing to do with encouraging Japanese visitors to smoke in Hawaii, but it is an attempt to clarify incorrect information about the new law," Weinert told ABC News.
Hawaii toughened its restrictions on smoking in 2006 — banning smoking in all public places such as restaurants, bowling alleys, malls as well as airports — and the new law confused Japanese visitors who thought the state had gone completely smoke-free.
Patrick Reynolds, the executive director of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free America, fully supports the smoke-free state. Reynolds told ABC News, "A smoke-free environment is an idea whose time has come. We're at the tipping point now. Twenty-one states have banned smoking from all bars and restaurants statewide; 19 of them in the past four years alone."
But when asked about the Smoking With Aloha campaign, Reynolds laughed. "It goes against the reality of Hawaii. They can't smoke on the plane over there and I think most smokers are used to the idea that secondhand smoke is a proven danger to the health of nonsmokers inhaling it," said Reynolds. "Promoting Hawaii as a smoky place is not the truth and it seems odd and regressive to Americans anyway."