California Senate Approves Sen. Oropeza Bill to Ban Smoking at State Beaches, Parks

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ban-smoking-at-beachEarlier this month, the state Senate approved a plan to ban smoking at state parks and beaches to protect the marine environment and reduce fire danger statewide.

“From Day One, this measure has been built on two pillars: education and prevention,” Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, said about Senate Bill 4’s call to establish a fine of up to $100 for smoking at a state park or beach. “Our effort is not one of punishment. Rather, it’s a means toward a safer and cleaner California.”

Oropeza’s No Smoking at State Parks and Beaches Act is nearly identical to a bill with the same number that Oropeza introduced in late 2006.

Oropeza represents the nearly 1 million residents of the 28th Senate District, which hugs much of California’s coast from Venice to Long Beach.

Oropeza cited several additional reasons to support her bill:

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency has determined cigarette butts to be the most frequently found marine debris item in the United States.
  • Smoking-related debris poses a persistent and serious threat to marine life and beachgoers over California’s 1,100 miles of coastline.
  • Ingestion of cigarette waste by marine animals interferes with their ability to eat and digest food.
  • According to the Ocean Conservancy, in 2003 smoking-related items (in the form of cigarette filters, cigar tips, tobacco packaging, and cigarette lighters) accounted for 38 percent of all debris items found on beaches in the United States.
  • Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and can harm the ecosystem as they contain more than 165 chemicals.
  • According to the California Department of Forestry (over a five-year average), smoking has been found to annually cause more than 100 California forest fires and destroy more than 3,400 acres.
  • Smoking has caused four of the 25 worst wildfires in California, from 1929-1999, including the 1999 Jones wildfire, which destroyed 964 structures and the 1999 Oakland Hills fire, the largest dollar fire loss in United States history. The $1.5 billion blaze destroyed 3,354 homes, 456 apartment buildings and 2,000 vehicles.

More than 100 local governments statewide have already imposed smoking bans, including bans in local parks, beaches and piers in Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Malibu, Newport Beach, San Clemente, Santa Monica, Seal Beach and Solana Beach.

Protecting smokers and cleaning up the environment have long been priorities for Oropeza. Taking effect on Jan. 1, 2008, was Oropeza’s ban on smoking in cars with kids, SB7. It applies to any car with a youth younger than the age of 18 in it, even if the car is parked and on private property.

In January 2007, her measure banning smoking in common-use areas such as covered parking lots, adjacent stairwells, lobbies, lounges, waiting areas, elevators and restrooms also took effect.

SB 4 now goes to the California State Assembly for review; no hearing date has been set.

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