California lawmakers voted to outlaw smoking in state parks and on state beaches in one of the most restrictive bills on smoking in the United States.
Violators would be subject to 100-dollar fines if they are caught lighting up in 278 parks and on 64 beaches after the State Assembly on Monday passed the bill, news reports said.
Its supporters argued that the legislation would reduce litter from tossed cigarette butts as well as secondhand smoke and forest fires while its detractors argued that it targeted people engaging in legal behaviour and California had more pressing priorities, including its 20-billion-dollar deficit.
The Senate had passed a similar measure last year, but it must pass the Assembly’s amended version before the bill could be sent to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not said whether he would sign it into law.
Political observers questioned how much impact such a law would have. Parking lots and camping sites are excluded from the ban, it would be enforced only where signs advertising the ban are posted and no additional resources would be used to implement the ban. The state parks system has said it has no money for the signs or enforcement.
Still, the bill's supporters hailed it as a step forward for the environment, particularly if it reduces butt litter.
Environmentalists pointed out that butts are among the most common trash found on beaches and they pose a threat to marine life.
Many city and country governments in California as well as other US states have already outlawed smoking on their beaches and parks, but no other state has outlawed smoking in its parks, according to anti-smoking groups.