Smokers' Days Are Numbered at State Parks, Beaches

Bill to ban smoking at state beaches, parks moves forward

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    Cigarettes are the No. 1 item collected by volunteers at beach clean-up days throughout the U.S., according to the Ocean Conservancy.

    It looks like smokers will have to butt out at California state parks and beaches.

    California lawmakers on Monday moved a step closer to banning smoking at state beaches and parks, following the lead of hundreds of communities nationwide. But California's would be the nation's most far-reaching ban.

    Anti-smoking groups say the bill would make California the first state to ban smoking throughout its entire park system -- more than 300 locations -- if it is signed into law. Smoking would still be allowed at campsites and in parking lots.

    The state Assembly voted 42-27 in favor of the ban. It fell short by a handful of votes last week, in part because about a dozen Democrats failed to vote. It faces one more vote in the Senate before it reaches Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk. He hasn't indicated whehter he will sign it ot not.

    The bill's author, state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, said she wants to keep cigarette butts out of the ocean, reduce the threat of wildfires at parks and eliminate second-hand smoke.

    "Unfortunately, too many beach visitors are irresponsible with their smoking habit," Oropeza said in a statement following the Assembly vote. "Our majestic beaches and parks have been marred by cigarette butts for far too long."

    Cigarettes are the No. 1 item collected by volunteers at beach clean-up days throughout the U.S., according to the Ocean Conservancy.

    Under the California bill, smoking in prohibited areas would be an infraction punishable with a $100 fine.

    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.

    Earlier this month, San Francisco lawmakers enhanced the City's anti-smoking law, making it illegal to light up at sidewalk cafes, restaurant patios, movie and ATM lines, common areas of housing complexes, outdoor dining tables, farmers markets, lines for movies theaters, concerts and sporting events, and just about anywhere else in public.

    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.