Assembly approves smoking ban at state parks and beaches

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State lawmakers adopted one of the nation’s most far-reaching regulations of tobacco use Monday, approving a bill to outlaw smoking at 278 state parks and beaches.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not said publicly whether he will sign the measure, which would allow a fine of up to $100 for smoking at a state beach or in a designated section of a state park.

Smoking would still be allowed in many parking lots and campgrounds.

The state has previously banned smoking within 25 feet of a playground or sandbox area and in public buildings.

The addition of the state ban would make much of the Los Angeles beachfront off-limits to cigarettes.

The city of Los Angeles already bans smoking at parks, beaches and within 25 feet of playgrounds, sports fields and picnic areas.

Santa Monica and Malibu have similar bans, as does Long Beach.

Los Angeles County banned smoking on county-run beaches in 2004 and last year extended the ban to parks and public golf courses.

Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach), the author of the statewide bill, SB 4, said it built on such local restrictions.

More than 100 local governments statewide have imposed similar bans, she said, including Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Seal Beach in Orange County.

Although smoking bans at restaurants and bars are widespread around the country, bans on smoking outdoors have been less common outside California.

Last year, Maine adopted a smoke-free law for beaches and parks, but no other state has outlawed cigarettes in its entire park system as California is proposing to do, according to the group Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, which tracks such measures.

The measure, which squeaked by with one vote to spare Monday, goes back to the Senate, which had approved it previously and is expected to concur in amendments.

Republicans opposed the bill, saying it was unwarranted meddling in legal behavior.

“It was a nanny-state bill then, and it is a nanny-state bill now,” said Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), who also opposed the measure last week when it fell short of the votes needed.

The Democratic majority, however, argued that the ban was justified because of the health risks of second-hand smoke and the pollution caused by thousands of toxic cigarette butts littering beaches and picnic areas.

“This is a great vote for the environment, for fire protection and a darn good vote for those of us who don’t like secondhand smoke,” Oropeza said.

The senator said her primary reason for the bill was that cigarette butts represent a significant source of pollution and threaten marine animals, which have difficulty eating and digesting food once they have ingested cigarette debris.

In addition, Oropeza said the California Department of Forestry estimates that smoking is responsible for more than 100 wildfires in an average year, damaging more than 3,400 acres.