A groundbreaking bill to prohibit smoking at nearly all state parks and beaches moved closer to law with the state Assembly passing it 42-27 Monday.
A version of the bill was approved last year by the Senate, and must go back to the Senate with the Assembly’s modifications before it can go to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for signature.
The bill would impose a $100 fine on violators. It aims to cut down on litter, secondhand smoke, and forest fires at California’s 278 parks and 64 beaches. If this bill becomes law, California would be the first state in the nation to ban smoking throughout its park system.
The bill, however, doesn’t cover every area of state parks and beaches. The Assembly narrowed the bill to exempt all campsites and parking lots. It also limits enforcement to areas where signs have been posted advertising the ban. The bill also specifies, in these budget-strapped times, that no new resources can be used to enforce it.
The bill’s author, Sen Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, said the ban is necessary because “our majestic beaches and parks have been marred by cigarette butts for far too long.”
Oropeza cited additional reasons to support her bill:
–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 more than 3,400 acres of damage.
–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.
–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.