Senate Bill 8, which institutes a smoking ban in state parks and state beaches, has been signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.
The new law states that the smoking fine will be $25, unless it is done in a parking lot on site, or if it is because of religious reasons.
However, despite the numerous positives to the new law, SB 8 has been marred by many serious issues. Despite Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) claiming the bill as his own, it has been proven that he had essentially stolen it a few years before.
The language of the bill amended at the last minute by Senator Glazer and Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) was also widely denounced. The amendments gave smoking alternatives in parking lots despite health experts and the park rangers themselves saying how much pollution this would contribute, as well as being a fire and safety hazard. The amendment also failed to provide limits on the religious smoking exemption, which experts also found almost anyone can claim, and reduced the fine from hundreds of dollars to merely twenty-five dollars, changing it to a slap on the wrist.
Finally, there have been allegations that both Senator Glazer and Assemblyman Levine compromised on a late amendment with other lawmakers who receive donations from the tobacco and vaping lobbies, essentially meaning that the concessions given by them were heavily influenced by the tobacco lobby. Given the bills’ authors previous negative stances on smoking and tobacco use, it came as a surprise that they would concede key points of SB 8 to them.
Despite this, SB 8 was given limited praise.
“As a coauthor of SB 8, I am glad that California’s state parks and beaches will be tobacco free,” said Assemblyman Levine after the signing. “In fact, I’m camping at China Camp State Park tonight. As a park lover, I am glad I pushed this for three years.”
Senator Glazer also responded in a tweet “Thanks Gavin Newsom for signing my bill to ban smoking on state beaches and parks- providing a cleaner, safer, and healthier environment for people, fish and wildlife.
Cigarettes are one of the biggest polluters of our beaches and oceans and have caused many forest fires.”
Many groups and former supporters of the bill spoke out against the bill after its’ signing. Many groups said on social media that while they agreed with the smoking ban, they didn’t like or agree with the changes the amendment gave. Others, such as the bill’s original author Scott St. Blaze, were angered over the signing and how it compromised what the bill originally intended to do.
“Unfortunately, this situation just seems like the same old story,” said St. Blaze in an interview with the Globe. “A group of corrupt career politicians who have learned how to navigate within a system full of apathetic politicians, and the mainstream media which allows far too much of it to simply go unchecked.”
Even environmental groups, who had been asking for a state beach and park smoking ban for years, denounced the signing.
“When you have people still smoking in the parking lots, all those butts still land in the beach and park area,” said Nelson Conway, who helps lead beach cleanups in Humboldt County. “It would have been better if they didn’t sign it. They are trading pollution in one place for another right next to it.”
The new law went into effect immediately after signing. A few environmental and conservation groups announced shortly after the signing that they would try to get new legislation passed to remove the last minute amendments put into SB 8.
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