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Smoking, vaping banned in California State Parks and beaches starting January

 

Last updated 10/25/2019 at 11:54am



Chris Karr

The Epoch Times

In a noteworthy break from his predecessors, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a new law that forbids smoking and vaping at state parks and beaches. The law applies equally to marijuana, tobacco, pipes and any form of e-cigarettes.

As of January, violators of the new law will be fined up to $25 for smoking or disposing of cigarette or cigar waste.

The law will apply to California’s 280 state parks and 300 miles of beaches. However, state park officials will be given the option to appoint specific areas for smoking at their discretion.

Existing law already establishes that anyone who smokes within 25 feet of playgrounds, “tot lot sandbox” areas, farmers’ markets, in government buildings or on public transportation, can be fined up to $250.

The initial bill was amended to permit smoking on paved roads and in parking lots. Another exception to the law is that film and television productions will be given clearance to smoke on state property if they secure the appropriate permits.

California’s Department of Parks and Recreation is tasked with posting approximately 5,600 signs to ensure that individuals are aware of the prohibition. The estimated cost of informing people of this restriction will be anywhere between $1.1 and $2 million.

“This bill will provide a cleaner, safer and healthier environment for people, fish and wildlife,” Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, the author of the SB-8, said after the law was signed. “Cigarettes are one of the biggest polluters on our beaches. It harms people through secondhand smoke and kills fish, which are affected by the tainted trash.”

Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae, said he was glad that California State Parks and beaches will now be tobacco free.

“In fact, I’m camping at China Camp State Park tonight,” Levine said. “As a park lover, I am glad I pushed this for three years.”

Other advocates for the bill have cited the connection between wildfires and jettisoned cigarette butts.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, careless smokers are responsible for about 44 wildfires every year for the past five years.

Nearly identical proposals have been vetoed by Governors Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger seven times during the past decade.

After Brown vetoed the same bill for the third time in three years, he cited concerns in his veto comments about the “coercive power of government,” saying that the “third time is not always a charm.”

“My opinion on the matter has not changed,” he added. “We have many rules telling us what we can’t do and these are wide-open spaces.”

While the new law is supported by the cities of Huntington Beach and Santa Monica, as well as a number of environmental and medical groups, a number of Republicans in the legislature voted against the bill.

Some environmentalists have also expressed skepticism.

“The current language of these bills will only serve to create an entirely unenforceable law,” activist Scott St. Blaze told the Los Angeles Times. “A law which would be a complete waste of our state park rangers’ time and a total waste of our California taxpayer’s money.”

Other activists believe this issue is tethered directly to problems associated with climate change.

According to Glazer, cigarette butts contain over 69 toxic chemicals. Moreover, Levine warned that toxic chemicals in cigarette butts can bleed into groundwater and subsequently poison animals that confuse the litter for food.

Dan Jacobson, state director of Environment California, is appreciative of certain measures, but he still believes the state can reach for more emphatic improvements.

“The smoking ban is great,” Jacobson told The Epoch Times. But “in addition, we need to adopt SB-54 and AB 1080 – both of which help reduce single-use plastic pollution.”

Emily Parker, a coastal and marine scientist for the nonprofit Heal the Bay, has stated that cigarette butts are the No. 1 object volunteers find annually.

“Cigarette butts are filters, and a lot of people don’t know that they’re made of plastic,” Parker told CGTN America. “They contain a lot of hazardous chemicals, and even though it’s just one small piece of plastic, all of that plastic can really add up and all of those toxics can add up and cause a lot of damage to the environment.”

Over the course of the last two decades, volunteers have recovered almost 1 million cigarette butts in Los Angeles county.

 

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