Thank you for not smoking | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Thank you for not smoking

Matthew Renda
mrenda@tahoedailytribune.com

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A California bill calling for the ban of smoking in all state parks and beaches landed on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk late last week, according to several state officials.

California State Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, authored Senate Bill 4, which mandates the prohibition of smoking in all state parks and beaches.

The bill is meant to reduce smoking related trash commonly found in public parks and beaches while reducing potential fire danger, which cigarettes and other smoking-related articles present, Oropeza said.

“This is not about second-hand smoke,” said Ray Sotero, spokesman for Oropeza’s Sacramento office. “We realize that in the great outdoors second-hand smoke presents minimal danger to the public. This is about environmental concerns.”

Sotero said volunteers working on community beach clean-up days in Santa Monica and Redondo Beach – communities located within Oropeza’s senate district – have reported that more than one third of the trash collected during clean-up efforts is smoking related refuse such as cigarette butts, cellophane, cartons and matches.

“This trash is clogging California waterways and presents a danger to marine life,” Sotero said.

Sotero further said the bill will help prevent wildland fires as carelessly tossed cigarettes have been know to cause nearly 20 percent of the worst forest fires in California history, according to the California Department of Forestry.

Roy Stearns, Spokesman for California State Parks, said he is in favor of reducing smoking debris from parks but worries about the cost of installing the necessary signage to alert park goers to the new regulations.

“Part of the regulations include installing signs to give people fair warning,” Stearns said. “We don’t have the money in the existing budget for sign installations.”

Stearns also expressed concern about potential enforcement.

“You’d have to be standing right next to somebody to catch them in the act,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t have the staffing levels necessary to fully enforce the law.”

However, Sotero said policing the parks is not entirely necessary as the spirit behind the law is to raise awareness about the environmental harm caused by carelessly discarding cigarette butts.

“This isn’t about doling out fines to smokers, but raising awareness about doing the right thing for the environment,” Sotero said. “The fine will be $100 and at the officer’s discretion. We just want people to do the right thing.”

South Lake Tahoe resident Evan Fitzsimmons is not in favor of the proposed smoking ban.

“I don’t smoke around people who don’t like it,” he said. “Sometimes I just want to chill on the beach and have a cigarette. What’s wrong with that?”

Fitzsimmons said he doesn’t like finding litter of any kind on the beach and is very conscientious about collecting his cigarette butts and throwing them in the trash.

“Littering, in general, is stupid,” he said.

Senate Bill 4 was approved by both the California state assembly and senate and is still subject to Schwarzenegger’s approval.

Jeff Maceda, Spokesman for the Governor’s office, said the bill arrived last week, but the governor has been unable to address the matter due to other pressing matters.

“We will reserve comment on the bill until the governor decides to take action,” Maceda said.

Maceda did not define a timeline for the governor’s action.

The Governor has approximately two weeks to either sign or veto the legislative item.


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