Pro-environmental smoking ban at state beaches faces vote as soon as Monday

Pro-environmental smoking ban at state beaches faces vote as soon as Monday

20 March 2010

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USA —  The final Assembly vote on Senate Bill 4, a statewide effort to protect California´s coastal landscape and state parks, is expected to occur as soon as Monday.

On a day when the Assembly had several absences, the measure by Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, fell just shy of the necessary 41-vote majority on her plan to ban smoking at state beaches and designated areas of state parks. A full house is expected Monday.

SB 4, the No Smoking at State Parks and Beaches Act, would establish a fine of up to $100 for smoking at a state beach or park. It was recently amended to allow the state Department of Parks and Recreation, citing enforcement concerns, to designate areas where smoking is banned.

More than 50 groups and organizations support Oropeza´s bill, including 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 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.

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.

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