California town plans to put out beach smokers

Teen-agers lobby for ban to keep coastline clean

October 12, 2003|By Tony Perry | Tony Perry,LOS ANGELES TIMES

SOLANA BEACH, Calif. - On the beach here you can sunbathe, surf some of the best waves in Southern California, and enjoy the picnic food of your choice. Tai-chi devotees do their morning exercises on the water's edge, and the weekend air is full of Frisbees and footballs.

What you can't do, at least after a new city ordinance takes effect next month, is smoke.

This health-conscious city (population 13,000) north of San Diego is on the verge of becoming the first in California - maybe the continental United States - to ban smoking on the beach.

The reasons are many: the look, the smell, the dangers of secondhand smoke, the accumulated butts in the sand. Add some pressure from local teen-agers who feel protective toward the 1.4-mile-long beach, and the City Council voted 5-0 last week to ban smoking on the beach and the city's public park.

"We're tired of our beach being an ashtray," said Councilman Joe Kellejian.

Two weeks ago the teen-agers - part of the Youth Tobacco Prevention Corps - joined their elders in a daylong cleanup of the beach and nearby San Elijo Lagoon. Dozens of bags of trash were gathered and carted away.

The teen-agers found that cigarette butts were the No. 1 type of trash. Nothing new there. In a previous cleanup, more than 6,000 butts were collected in 60 minutes.

And so Solana Beach will join the famed Haunama Bay in Hawaii as a no-smoking zone.

The local chapter of the American Lung Association hopes that Solana Beach is a trendsetter. The city prides itself in having been one of the first to ban smoking in restaurants, before a state law. To the anti-smoking activists, the next frontier is the nation's beaches, parks and public patios.

"The time seems to be ripe for this," said Debra Kelley, the association's vice president.

The issue is not new to the beach communities. In 1987, voters in nearby Del Mar turned down a smoking ban for that city's beaches. The political winds, however, have begun to shift.

San Diego's city attorney is developing a beach-smoking ordinance for the City Council to consider. The lung association would like the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park to ban outdoor smoking.

A zoo spokeswoman said that although the zoo and Wild Animal Park ban smoking in all lines and interior spaces, an overall ban does not seem enforceable without a civic ordinance to back it up. The park and zoo are on city property.

Encinitas and Del Mar, which border Solana Beach to the north and south, respectively, have also shown little interest in banning smoking on the beach.

"We'll keep after them," said Candice Porter, coordinator of the teen-age group.

In Solana Beach, to the delight of the lung association, the council opted for the toughest version of the ban, choosing not to designate smoking areas. Smoking will be forbidden on the sand, in the water and even in the parking lot at Fletcher Cove, the city's primary beach access.

Officials admit that enforcement will be minimal. Signs warning of a fine will be posted. Sheriff's deputies will not be pulled away from higher-priority duties. But if smokers refuse to comply, a crackdown is possible.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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