An attempt by the California Legislature to impose what is believed to be the nation's most far-reaching smoking ban in state parks stalled Thursday over objections it would inappropriately punish smokers.
The bill in the 80-member Assembly fell five votes short of the simple majority needed to approve the ban, in part because several lawmakers who were expected to vote for it were absent. Another vote could be held as early as Monday.
If the legislation eventually is signed into law, California would be the first state to ban smoking throughout its entire park system, according to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that tracks such bans.
State Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach) introduced the bill because, she said, cigarette butts are one of the worst marine litter offenders and they pose a threat to the health of sea creatures everywhere. The bill is also aimed at eliminate second-hand smoke and reduce the threat of wildfires. Under a legislative compromise, campsites and parking areas will be exempted from the ban.
"It is very clear that the garbage that is created as a result of smoking on beaches -- butts and wrappers -- are polluting our water," Democratic state Sen. Jenny Oropeza of Long Beach, the bill's author, said in an interview. "In terms of the state park system, we have a major fire hazard when cigarettes are smoked in parks."
Her bill would affect some of the state's most iconic geography, from the otherworldly desert landscape of Anza Borrego to famous Southern California surfing spots to Northern California redwood groves. The legislation previously passed the Senate.
Last summer, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom pushed through a a 20-cent per pack fee on cigarettes to help pay for the City's cleanup of discarded butts. Newsom said then discarded cigarette butts account for a significant portion of the litter that has to be cleaned from sidewalks and gutters.
San Francisco is not alone in its hatred of toxic butts. Cities such as Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Los Angeles and Malibu have already banned smoking at beaches, local parks and piers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Not surprisingly, tobacco manufacturers are against the bill because they say it violates smokers' rights. But what about the whales?