Smoking ban at California beaches one step closer

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no smoking california beachAcknowledging the risk cigarettes pose to California’s coastal landscape, the State Assembly approved a plan to ban smoking at state beaches and designated areas of state parks.

“Unfortunately, too many beach visitors are irresponsible with their smoking habit,” 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 beach or park. An earlier vote Thursday fell short because of an absence of members. “Our majestic beaches and parks have been marred by cigarette butts for far too long.”

Oropeza’s No Smoking at State Parks and Beaches Act came after the bill was amended to allow the state Department of Parks and Recreation, citing enforcement concerns, to designate areas where smoking is banned.

Supporting Oropeza’s bill were representatives for the cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Manhattan Beach and Torrance, as well as state firefighters, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.

“As a representative of the 28th Senate District, I have a responsibility to protect our beautiful coastline from Venice to Long Beach and beyond,” she said.

Oropeza cited several additional reasons to support the No Smoking at State Parks and Beaches Act:

  • 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.

Banning smoking at beaches has become a popular cause for California’s coastal communities.  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.

This is not the first time that Oropeza has tackled smoking restrictions. Oropeza’s ban on smoking in cars with kids went into effect Jan. 1, 2008. And, in January 2007, her measure banning smoking in common-use areassuch as covered parking lots and the adjacent stairwells, lobbies, lounges, waiting areas, elevators and restrooms also took effect.

The No Smoking at State Parks and Beaches Act, SB 4, now returns to the California Senate to concur on the park amendments.  That vote has not yet been set. If approved, it would then go to the governor.

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