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L.A. Considers Beach Smoking Ban

Inspired by a law in San Diego County, Jack Weiss seeks to prohibit lighting up on the sands at Venice, Cabrillo, Will Rogers and Dockweiler.

October 15, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Not to be outdone by a little town in San Diego County, Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss introduced a motion Tuesday that would ban smoking on all Los Angeles beaches.

"It shouldn't be considered socially acceptable to go to the beach and puff away around families and then flick your cigarette butt into the sand," said Weiss, who added that he and his children spent hours "picking up other people's cigarette butts" at a beach cleanup a few weeks ago.

So when he read last week that Solana Beach had become the first city in California to ban smoking on its 1.4-mile strip of sand, he decided to bring the idea to Los Angeles. His motion, which was endorsed by Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, asks the council to direct the city attorney to write a law banning smoking on city beaches and in adjacent areas. A council committee will review the idea, and the full council could vote on the matter in the next several weeks.

Norman Kjono, media coordinator for the Web site Forces, which generally opposes bans on smoking, questioned the proposed law.

"The people who would be banned from consuming lawful tobacco products on the beaches also support those beaches with their taxes," he said. "By what right does the City Council exclude them from using what they are paying for?"

Weiss said the law is necessary because smoking on beaches creates a health risk from secondhand smoke and pollutes the environment. He said cigarette butts are the most common litter on California's beaches, and noted that more than 300,000 cigarette butts were picked up on California beaches in a single day during the 2002 Coastal Clean Up.

Weiss' office said the proposed ban would probably affect Venice, Cabrillo, Dockweiler and Will Rogers beaches.

All those strips of sand -- about 10 miles total -- are maintained by Los Angeles County's Department of Beaches and Harbors.

But Weiss said that city officials could ask the county to post no-smoking signs and that Los Angeles police officers could march down the sand issuing citations.

Ideally, Weiss said, scofflaws would be sentenced to clean up the beaches.

He said, however, that the real point of the ordinance is not to write tickets, but to change people's attitudes. He said he hoped it would have an effect similar to the ban on smoking in restaurants.

"It's commonly accepted: One doesn't smoke at a restaurant," he said.

"I want it to be commonly accepted that one doesn't smoke on the beach."

Andy Weisser, spokesman for the American Lung Assn. of California, said the proposal was "a good idea."

Down at the notoriously freewheeling Venice Beach, the idea received mixed reviews.

Robert Kraemer, a waiter at the coffee and sandwich shop Abbot's Habit, said that as someone who likes to exercise on the boardwalk, he is all for the ban.

But he thinks many of his latte-sipping, cigarette-smoking patrons would be opposed.

Tony Vera, a street performer who eats fire and swallows lighted cigarettes during weekend shows on the crowded boardwalk, said he supported banning cigarettes from the beach but thought they should still be allowed on the boardwalk.

"You know the butt, it's horrible," said Vera, who added that it pains him to see half-smoked cigarettes lapping in the waves. But he sees nothing wrong with smoking on the boardwalk.

What's more, a ban would put a crimp in his routine, in which he requests cigarettes from his audience, then lights and swallows them.

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