The days of walking along the beach at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve with cigarette in hand or sucking on a favorite cigar while taking in the view from atop San Bruno Mountain could soon be at an end, if a new proposal by supervisors goes forward.
The ordinance, scheduled to be introduced early in 2007, would ban smoking in county parks and on trails, and comes in the wake of several measures by the county, area cities and the local community college district to clamp down on smoking.
While most such measures have met with little public opposition, smoking rights advocates, including California Coordinator for The Smoker’s Club, Robert Best, say such ordinances demonize smokers and infringe on civil liberties.
“I have a huge problem with that [ordinance] because I pay taxes to maintain parks and beaches,” Best said.
Karen Licavoli, co-chair of the San Mateo County Tobacco Education Coalition with the non-profit Breathe California, noted that more than 80 percent of Californians don’t smoke. “We’re not anti-smoker, we’re just anti-smoke,” Licavoli said. Smokers don’t have a right to expose people to one of the most toxic cancer causing chemicals around, she said.
If the proposal is adopted, first offenders could be found guilty of an infraction and subject to a $100 fine. The fine would increase incrementally to $500 for each offense after two within the same year, officials said.
The U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have concluded that second-hand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults. Second-hand smoke is believed to cause health problems including thousands of new asthma cases in children each year and 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in toddlers.
“It is good public health policy and public safety policy,” said Supervisor Rich Gordon, who plans to introduce the ordinance, along with Supervisor Jerry Hill.
Gordon said the new law is meant to be consistent with the county’s ban on smoking in or near county buildings and in the common areas of apartments and condos, both approved within the last year-and-a-half. No complaints regarding second-hand smoke in county parks have been registered with supervisors or with the local branch of Breathe California — formerly associated with the American Lung Association — officials said.
Banning smoking could also help limit litter from cigarette butts and reduce the likelihood of wildfires, Gordon said.