Prior to the smoking bans, I have been in several seaside and lakeside beaches, in the USA as well as in Europe, and I have never been struck by cigarette’s butts all over the sand, as some bitter and quarrelsome antismokers claim. Now I live in Italy and, since the year 2005, when the country was contaminated by the antimoker’s fever , I have not seen, read or heard of Italian or European beaches being filled with cigarette butts. Apparently things are different in California where, according to some environmental groups, cigarette’s butts are the bane of California’s beaches. So much so, that Sen. Jenny Oropeza, known smoker’s persecutor, presented a bill that would ban smoking at all state parks and beaches.
The bill passed the California State Senate but, despite the fact that smoking is banned on numerous beaches and in parks of the Golden State, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, calling it "an improper intrusion of government into people’s lives".
Oropeza, evidently, was very disappointed. She said that the smoking ban at beaches and state parks would have helped reduce litter, wildfires and second-hand smoke.
Now, let’s see how much truth there is in those statements.
As for the litter, the environmental groups supporting the bill say that cigarette butts are the n° 1 item collected during the cleanup days throughout the United States. This statement is clearly confuted by the California Coastal Commission which states:
"Almost 90 percent of floating marine debris is plastic", and "Results of more than 10 years of volunteer beach cleanup data indicate that 60 to 80 percent of beach debris comes from land-based sources".
Would you believe more the hysterical bigot groups supporting the ban or the California Coastal Commission?
Regarding the wildfires, practically all investigations agree on the fact that, besides the arson, most often they are the result of human carelessness. According to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, "Any fire kindled for warmth, cooking, light, religious or ceremonial purpose, can be at the origin of wildfires. Responsible parties may be hunters, campers, fisherman or hikers. The slash-and-burn practice. quite often results in catastrophic wildfires".
It also states: "Cigarettes, under normal conditions, generally do not start wild-land fires unless the RH (relative humidity) is under 22%, it is windy, and a continuous, cured, finely-particulated fuel-bed exists".
With respect to the cigarette’s butts, it adds:
• Average full-length cigarette burns for 13 to 15 minutes (1” in 4 minutes).
o Most people discard cigarette almost totally burned, therefore, 62 to 122 seconds exposed to fuel bed.
• The following circumstances must usually occur in order for a cigarette to start a wildfire:
o RH less than 22%
o 30% of glowing tip exposed to extremely fine fuel.
o Favorable tip orientation with wind (wind will assist ignition).
o Cigarette comes to rest in fuels at angle where lit end is facing down.
With these authoritative considerations in mind, how many wildfires would the Oropeza’s bill reduce?
(That does not alter the fact that to get rid of an ignited butt out of the ashtray it is a blameworthy thing and, quite criminal, if there exists a however infinitesimal possibility of a fire).
The last thing that Oropeza claims the ban would have reduced, is the second-hand smoke. Besides the fact that passive smoke is nothing but a lure with which they have decoyed unwary smokers and non smokers, which right minded person could believe that the cigarette smoke could affect the air in the open space of a beach in front of the ocean?
Now, let’s put aside all the hysteria surrounding the cigarettes and objectively consider the problem of beaches’s contamination.
From various sources it appears that the butts found in the beaches have increased since the indoor smoking ban was put in force. The same is true of butts found in the sidewalks near office buildings, bars, restaurants, parking lots and ludic places in general. These butts end up in street gutters and from there make their way to the sea. Before the ban in the enclosed spaces, no smoker would dare (or even think) to toss the cigarette’s ash and butt on the floor and would use the ashtrays. These were then emptied in the garbage bins to follow the procedures for the safe disposal of urban wastes.
It follows that the only way to reduce cigarette butts in the streets, is to provide smokers with ashtrays or other receptacles conveniently placed at the entrances of businesses, offices, buildings and the like.
Or better yet: let the owner, manager, director of private business open to the public, the freedom to decide whether or not to have smokers in his premises. But that is too much to ask: It would be like "stealing" to Big Pharma the profits from the sale of the gadgets to "temporarily" stop smoking!!