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Environmental Destruction

Enjoy California’s smokefree parks and beaches

Published Apr 6, 2022
Happy young child in a park

As Californians continue to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, lung health remains as important as ever. Smoke- and vape-free spaces are key to protecting your lungs and enjoying all California has to offer. Whether you’re exploring local communities or planning a road trip adventure, finding smokefree destinations with plenty of dining, shopping, and recreation experiences is easy. Visit California can help plan your itinerary once you’ve picked your spot.

Californians have some of the most beautiful natural landscapes on the planet, and it’s easy to enjoy the outdoors at a local park or beach year-round.

Many of these scenic places are protected from the dangers of toxic secondhand smoke and the harm of tobacco product pollution. Thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 81 in October 2019, smoking and vaping are prohibited in most areas of California state parks and beaches. 

This bill expands existing state tobacco protections, which restrict smoking or vaping at playgrounds, tot-lot sandbox areas, and youth sporting events in public parks, to protect children from secondhand smoke and vape. Existing state law also restricts the disposal of cigarette butts or other tobacco waste within 25 feet of playgrounds or tot-lot sandbox areas.2

These are important laws for our communities for many reasons:

  • There’s no such thing as safe secondhand smoke. All types of secondhand exposure are harmful to the lungs, including secondhand vape and marijuana.
  • Tobacco waste, like cigarette butts, single-use vape cartridges, and disposable vapes, is primarily made of plastic and covered in toxic chemical residue.34
  • Tobacco waste can be found almost everywhere. In fact, more cigarette butts are collected during beach litter cleanups than any other type of litter, including plastic straws!5
  • Tobacco waste is left behind in parks and on beaches, posing a threat to children, wildlife, and the environment.67

Local leadership on creating smokefree spaces

California is building on the leadership of a growing number of cities and counties that have created smokefree outdoor spaces. Nearly 150 cities or communities have designated outdoor recreational spaces, parks or beaches, or both, as smokefree.8910 Prohibiting the use of cigarettes and vapes in these places reduces secondhand exposure to harmful chemicals found in tobacco products. 

Still working toward a smokefree future

Smoke- and vape-free spaces are key for protecting your lungs. If your local outdoor or recreation spaces aren’t smokefree, let your community leaders know you’re concerned. Send an email to your representative.

Find out where your local smokefree parks and beaches are.

  1. Senate Bill 8 (Steve Glazer, Chapter 761, Statutes of 2019), to add Section 5008.10 to the Public Resources Code.
  2. Health and Safety Code Section 104495.
  3. Lerner CA, Sundar IK, Watson RM, et al. Environmental health hazards of e-cigarettes and their components: Oxidants and copper in e-cigarette aerosols. Environmental Pollution. 2015;198:100-107. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2014.12.033
  4. Belzagui F, Buscio V, Gutiérrez-Bouzán C, Vilaseca M. Cigarette butts as a microfiber source with a microplastic level of concern. Science of The Total Environment. 2021;762:144165. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144165
  5. Ocean Conservancy, International Coastal Cleanup. We Clean On, 2021 report. Washington, DC: Ocean Conservatory, International Coastal Cleanup; 2021.
  6. Novotny TE, Lum K, Smith E, Wang V, Barnes R. Cigarettes butts and the case for an environmental policy on hazardous cigarette waste. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2009;6(5):1691-705.
  7. Novotny TE, Hardin SN, Hovda LR, Novotny DJ, McLean MK, Khan S. Tobacco and cigarette butt consumption in humans and animals. Tob Control. 2011;20 Suppl 1(Suppl_1):i17-i20. doi:10.1136/tc.2011.043489.
  8. American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation. Municipalities with Smokefree Beach Laws. no-smoke.org. https://no-smoke.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/SmokefreeBeaches.pdf. October 2, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2022.
  9. American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation. Municipalities with Smokefree Park Laws. no-smoke.org. https://no-smoke.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/SmokefreeParks.pdf. October 2, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2022.
  10. American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation, California Tobacco Control Program. Policy Evaluation Tracking System (PETS). Accessed February 25, 2022.

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Hold the industry accountable

California has already protected people from other harmful products, and it's time to hold the tobacco industry to the same standards.