The California Assembly approved on Monday a sweeping ban on smoking at state parks and beaches. Sen. Oropeza’s SB4 is part of the Clean Seas Coalition package of bills to combat the marine debris crisis. Major props go to the Surfrider Foundation for its successful efforts as the sponsor of the bill. Cigarette butts are the No. 1 item found in the sand on Coastal Cleanup Day and at Heal the Bay’s other beach cleanups. Despite the fact that Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Long Beach and Malibu have banned smoking on the beach, butts remain a big problem.
Over the past five years, volunteers have picked up between 7,000 and 37,000 cigarette butts annually on the beach. (Styrofoam pieces and bits of plastic follow closely behind in the Hall of Shame.)
Despite the beach smoking bans, volunteers still find butts at most beaches with prohibitions. There’s been a reduction since the laws went into effect, but butts continue to be the most common litter found on the beach.
Bans may make a difference, but they don’t solve the problem of people using the ocean as their ashtray. A greater focus on education and enforcement would make an impact. Also, more butt disposal options upstream from the beach, especially near bars and clubs, would reduce the amount of cigarette waste in stormwater runoff.
SB 4 now goes back to the Senate for final concurrence, with little dissent expected. After that, the bill will go to the governor’s desk. This should be the third marine debris bill to make it to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk. So far, he’s 1-for-2, with approval of a nurdle bill and a veto of a derelict fishing gear bill.
Signing SB 4 into law will move the governor firmly toward implementing key elements of the Ocean Protection Council’s marine debris action plan during his last year in office. Approval sends a strong message that state parks and beaches are California treasures that should be treated accordingly.