California could become the first state in the nation to ban smoking at state parks and beaches after the state Senate today passed legislation it says protects the marine environment and reduces fire danger. Introduced by Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach), Senate Bill 4 now moves to the Assembly, where no hearing has been scheduled. In its current form, the bill would establish a $100 fine for smoking at parks or beaches.
Already in Orange County, Seal Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and San Clemente ban smoking in city parks, beaches and piers. Oropeza's home city of Long Beach does as well. Her bill is nearly identical to one she introduced in 2006. Since then, the legislator says, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has determined cigarette butts to be the most frequently found marine debris item in the U.S., posing a persistent and serious threat to marine life. Oropeza's office also pointed to the California Department of Forestry blaming smoking as the source for more than 100 forest fires in the state annually over a five-year average and four of California's 25 worst wildfires from 1929-1999.
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Oropeza isn't exactly a pal of the tobacco industry. Her bill that banned smoking in cars with anyone inside under age 18 went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008--exactly one year after her measure outlawing smoking in common-use areas such as lobbies, lounges, elevators, restrooms, stairwells, waiting areas and covered parking lots kicked in.