Veto disappoints backers of Calif. smoking ban

Advocates of a bill that would have banned smoking at all California state parks and beaches say they're disappointed in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to veto the measure.

"We're very dismayed to see the governor has not prioritized clean and healthy beaches, especially since our coast lines are a driving force to our California economy," said Angela Howe, an attorney for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, a San Clemente-based environmental organization.

The foundation had hoped Schwarzenegger would follow a 2008 recommendation by the California Ocean Protection Council to ban smoking at all state beaches to help reduce polluting marine debris.

But the cigar-smoking Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have done that Monday, saying the bill crossed the line of government intrusion.

In a letter to California senators, the governor said state parks and local governments were already permitted to ban smoking on a case-by-case basis.

"There is something inherently uncomfortable about the idea of the state encroaching in such a broad manner on the people of California," Schwarzenegger wrote.

Many of those legislators previously have been invited into the governor's smoking tent at the Capitol.

The bill's author, Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, had argued that the measure would help reduce litter, along with the threat of wildfires and second-hand smoke. She crafted the legislation so smokers would be allowed to light up in parking lots and at campsites in parks.

"I'm sorry the governor did not agree with this widely supported effort to increase public awareness about the environmental threats carelessly tossed cigarettes are doing to our marine life and to the great outdoors," Oropeza said in a statement.

Hundreds of communities nationwide have enacted smoking bans at municipal parks and beaches. Maine is the only state to ban smoking at its state beaches. But anti-smoking groups say no state has banned smoking throughout its entire park system.

The bill was supported by environmental groups that organize beach cleanup days throughout the U.S., where cigarettes are the No. 1 item collected by volunteers.

At least one tobacco company, Commonwealth Brands, had publicly opposed the ban, arguing it would infringe on smokers' rights.

Schwarzenegger told lawmakers the best way to discourage people from leaving cigarette butts at beaches and parks is to increase fines and penalties.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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