City bans smoking on beach

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 upscale, health-conscious city of 13,000 north of San Diego is on the verge of becoming the first in California — and perhaps in 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 teenagers who feel protective toward the 1.4-mile-long beach, and the City Council this week voted 5-0 to ban smoking on the beach and in the city’s public park.

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

Two weeks ago, the teenagers — 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 teens 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 Solana Beach is a trend-setter. The city prides itself in having been one of the first to ban smoking in restaurants, in advance of 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 fine will probably be $50, the same as the fine for smoking in a restaurant, officials said.

But even some nonsmokers feel the ban is a step too bold. "Another of our rights is being taken away," said surfer Milton Willis, his board under his arm as he headed to the sea.

"You mean a surfer can’t watch the sunset and enjoy a smoke even if there isn’t anyone around? That’s not right, man."

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