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Lighting Up at Beach Is Banned

Santa Monica becomes the first city in L.A. County to outlaw smoking at the shore. Some areas of the pier are excluded.

March 25, 2004|Martha Groves | Times Staff Writer

Seeking to stamp out cigarette-butt litter and secondhand smoke's ill effects, Santa Monica has become the second city in California -- and the first in Los Angeles County -- to outlaw smoking at the beach.

If the Santa Monica City Council again approves the ordinance at its second reading April 13, the ban will take effect May 13, said Deputy City Atty. Adam Radinsky.

The City Council backed off from a smoking ban at the city's fabled wooden pier, bowing to tenants' wishes that a few smoking areas be designated at the nearly century-old hangout for residents and tourists.

"It's one more piece of the puzzle for healthier communities," Mayor Richard Bloom said of the new ordinance, which passed at midnight Tuesday on a 4-2 vote. "It's really important for smokers to start focusing on what they're doing with their cigarette butts."

Santa Monica, which a year ago banned smoking at city parks, once again is in the vanguard of a movement backed by anti-tobacco and environmental groups. Last fall, Solana Beach, in northern San Diego County, led the way in banning smoking on the beach.

Other coastal communities are lining up to ban butts. Last week, San Clemente's council voted to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance for the city's beach and pier, and on April 6, a Los Angeles City Council committee will review a proposal to prohibit smoking at the city's Venice, Cabrillo, Dockweiler and Will Rogers beaches.

If Los Angeles joins Santa Monica, "We will have a 13-mile stretch of California coastline with no smoking, and that will just send a tremendous message," said L.A. Councilman Jack Weiss, who told the Santa Monica City Council that passage of the ordinances would send "shock waves" through the state.

On the breezy morning after the vote, the new ordinance got mixed reviews at the pier.

Eric Langley, 25, and Maria Yager, 24, visiting from Monticello, Minn., puffed on Marlboros as they strode the pier's well-worn boards. They had heard about the looming restrictions and deemed them "annoying and inconvenient."

Still, Langley acknowledged that he could see the attraction. "I'd hate to sit on the beach with a bunch of cigarette butts," he said.

Terrance Jackson, 41, a Santa Monica resident who fishes regularly at the pier, said he considered the smoking curbs "against our constitutional rights."

But the ordinance found a fan in Ted Mioduski, a dentist from Loveland, Colo. "I'm all for it," he said. "I was under the impression that California was already pretty much a no-smoking state. Colorado is heading in that direction."

The smoking ban had the support of such groups as the American Lung Assn., the American Cancer Society, the Surfrider Foundation and COAST/Santa Monica, whose acronym stands for Communities Organized Against Smoking and Its Trash.

Bloom said research on the ordinance brought to light "just how bad the litter problem is with cigarettes."

"What we've learned is that people are discarding their cigarette butts everywhere," he said. "They litter our streets. When it rains, they go into the storm drains, and the storm drains empty directly into the bay. This is one of many reasons we have pollution in the bay."

Santa Monica already bans smoking at indoor restaurants. The newly passed ordinance would also cover outdoor dining areas on the pier.

The ordinance also bans smoking at bus stops and other public waiting areas and sets $250 fines for violators of a new state law banning smoking within 20 feet of any door or window of a government building.

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