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Watch where you put your butts

Many smokers call it an attack on their ever-dwindling freedoms, but if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs Senate Bill 4, public health and the environment will be much better off.

The bill would ban smoking at state beaches and parks throughout California – an unprecedented feat for pushers of a smoke-free environment.

Violators would have to pay a $100 citation if caught. While we typically frown upon measures that reduce people’s freedom, it makes little sense for us not to support this one.

We are not saying that the great outdoors should only be enjoyed by non-smokers.

But we do think it can be a nuisance for families having to move from their picnic table or their perfect spot on the beach because they want to spare their lungs from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

And it is even more unfair for people who suffer from asthma and severe allergies because they have no choice but to relocate.

The good part of this bill is that there is a proposed solution to hopefully make both sides happy. If certain family members do happen to smoke, the new bill will permit them to do so freely in parking lots at state parks and beaches.

It is unfortunate that the environment outdoors – as large and wide-open as it is – does not eliminate the harmful effects of cigarette smoke, but it is a reality.

A recent Los Angeles Times article raised the issue about there being no clear evidence to prove outdoor secondhand smoke is equally as harmful as indoor secondhand smoke, since statistics are based on indoor measurements.

But if people are inhaling cigarette smoke and happen to be outside, chances are it is harmful. Why take a chance when secondhand smoke causes thousands of cancer deaths in nonsmoking Americans each year?

If preserving public health is not a good enough reason for you to back this bill, perhaps saving the state money on trash-pick up will persuade you.

In 2009 340,221 cigarette butts were picked up on a single beach clean-up day. It is unsanitary for the child running barefoot in the sand and harmful when it reaches the ocean animals.

Leftover cigarette butts can also trigger fires, which Californians already know too well. Banning smoking in state parks and beaches would be a very good thing.

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