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Arnold, Arnold -- beach oil is a 'no,' but tar and nicotine are a 'yes'? [Updated]


Arnold Schwarzenegger is worried about the oil that might possibly befoul our beaches at some wretched moment in the future, but not about the tens of millions of cigarette butts that actually do befoul our beaches every hour of every day of every year?

I may be a little dizzy from the governor’s turnabout today, but I am on board with his 180-degree reversal of his position on offshore drilling in California; the oil rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico proves that five or 10 or 20 years of  a "pretty good" drilling record can’t stay in the game against one gazillion-gallon nightmare mess. It’s like gambling in Vegas – eventually, the odds catch up and beat the light sweet crude out of you.

But at the same time that the governor did a spin on drilling off the California coast, he vetoed a bill to ban smoking on the state’s beaches.

Offshore oil drilling is absolutely and clearly a peril to the environment and to the coastal economy, whether it’s wildlife, tourism or fishing, and in my book it’s all three.

But cigarette butts are the single biggest litter item on our beaches – a quarter of a trillion every year in the U.S., by one reckoning. They and the nicotine in them are a menace to wildlife both on the sand and when they float out to sea and into the food chain, unless you like your swordfish with a big ol’ side of nicotine.

And they’re a menace to the public and to public budgets; more than 120 California cities and counties, including L.A., ban smoking at beaches and parks, in no small part because they’re so expensive to clean up. Think of 250 billion Charlie Chaplins, retrieving one teeny tiny butt at a time.

As the L.A. Times editorial pointed out, "There are times when a day at the beach feels more like a frolic in an ashtray." And who wants to pay for holidays in an ashtray?

I’m far less concerned about the second-hand smoke risk, or the risk of wildfires from beach smoking, than I am about the fact that smokers do indeed use the sands of California like one big ashtray. These are the public’s beaches, not just smokers’, and there are precious few such beaches left after years of real estate predation.

And Schwarzenegger’s veto invokes government intrusion into people’s rights? To do what? Turn beaches into a Marlboro litter box?

It’s beyond me why Schwarzenegger should not regard cigarettes, smoked or discarded or both, as epidemic seaside littering, a continuous and noxious daily intrusion into all of our lives. Is this because the beaches he visits, which I assume are in front of his friends’ beach houses, are less traveled by the public than the places the rest of us go for oceanfront fun and therefore less likely to be despoiled by the discarded dregs of Benson and Hedges.

I know that budgets have ratcheted back enforcement in parks and beyond, but I’d stake a few bucks of my own when it comes to stopping beach smoking, so long as I’d get to dictate what’s on the signs. It's nothing I can print here, but I’d equate the cigarette litterer with a word I’d ask you to use your imagination to think of: a three-letter synonym for ‘’butt,’’ and I don’t mean the smokeable kind.

[Updated 5 p.m.: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office e-mailed me to counter my blog post with the governor's veto remark. A spokesman said the governor understands the challenge that cigarette-butt litter poses to beaches and marine life, but that the bill covers only state beaches and parks, which means a patchwork of smoking regulation; therefore, he thinks increasing fines and penalties for current littering laws would be a better way of dealing with this matter.]

-- Patt Morrison



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Give it a rest! When spoil kid don't get all they want, they throw a tantrum now I know you are not a child as you are posting here. I am no longer a smoker after 25 years but out door public places do belong to all, if you don't like the smell walk away........


Any other stereotypes you'd like to see oppressed? Any more freedoms that you, personally, would like to keep from your fellow Americans? Come on Patt, smokers are people, not deviants - not until CA made enjoying a perfectly legal cigarette into a hate crime. Congratulations, you've given our infinitesimal minority the gift of ostracism any time we go to work, or school, or shopping, or for any reason travel, or for any reason find ourselves within 20 feet of any structure with four walls (in L.A., seriously?). But now you want to rob us of the great outdoors as well? The whole problem with cigarette butt litter was the lack of proper disposal facilities because it had been ILLEGALIZED. Now that one of our posse - he's kind of a big deal - has decided to bless us with equality instead of elitism, we can dispose of our cigarettes in a more appropriate, respectful way - the way we would have been doing it for years if "nons" had simply made it more convenient than trying to find a place to smoke between anything indoors, and everything outdoors. And while we're pointing fingers, since 68% of Americans are overweight, try to keep your junk food wrappers out of our ash trays. Here's a tip: Cigarettes can really cut those cravings.


Kudos to the Governor! I am really surprised with all the anti-smoking zealots out there that this effort failed but I am glad it did.

To try to ban smoking based on littering is absurd. There is already laws in place against littering... clearly those are not being enforced or there would be no argument here. Would food in wrappers be banned next??

I don't advocate that people smoke, but it is legal and this is a free"ish" country...



the cigarette butts are nothing short of littering. a law that is already in place. might as well ban eating candy at the beach while we are at it, just because some wrappers end up in the ocean.


Wow I can't even get my head around how you find these two issues comparable. It's like comparing the genocide in Darfur to junior high bullying... sorry the two are nothing alike.

paul davidson

Arnold needs to get his priorities straight!


In 2007 after the July 4 holiday, San Diego beach cleanup volunteers collected 9,000 pounds of trash and 20,000 cigarette butts. A cigarette butt weighs 0.00767 ounces. 20,000 butts weigh 10 pounds, the weight of a house cat. The butts were 0.1% of the total trash collected.

In March, 2010, Madi Swayne, president of the San Clemente High Surfrider Club, reported to the San Clemente City Council that volunteers at a beach cleanup the previous Sunday collected 1,307 cigarette butts and more than 37,000 pieces of Styrofoam.


In 2008 the City of San Francisco conducted a litter audit on city streets. The results? "Percent of small litter: Chewing Gum -- 41%, Small Glass -- 23%, Cigarette Butts -- 10%"

Non-smoking gum chewers littered four times as much as cigarette smokers!

Would you rather your toddler put a discarded cigarette butt in his mouth and spit the nasty tasting thing out, or that he chew a delicious wad of used chewing gum, drenched in saliva from a non-smoker with God-knows-what kind of germs?


"Cigarette butts are the single biggest litter item on our beaches?" You mean that 10 pounds of cigarette butts versus 9,000 pounds of trash? Or the 1,307 butts versus 37,000 pieces of Styrofoam? Or the one cigarette butt for every 4 wads of chewing gum?
California does not need to exile the 15% of its smoking citizens from its beaches. California needs to apply the existing litter laws to the whole 100% of its citizens.

As for your orgiastic glee at kicking an underdog, Pat, I am old enough to have seen it in 1930's Germany. It is very ugly. Schwarzenegger, from Austria, does not want to encourage that ugliness in California.


Nice going Arnold. Like your wife who feels she can park wherever whe wants along with driving while talking on the cell phone ... you can now blow your cigar smoke all over the waves and sand and throw your butts onto the sand. Good job???? Great Leadership?????

***** "gaptidbits@yahoo.com"******


Thanks Arnold for saving us from another law attacking our freedom written by another pushy woman politician.


Talk about a confused "Enviornmentalist" first he says .... I will not sign the no smoking on the beaches ... saying that is up to the local yokals to which I say ....

Nice going Arnold. Like your wife who feels she can park wherever whe wants along with driving while talking on the cell phone ... you can now blow your cigar smoke all over the waves and sand and throw your butts onto the sand. Good job.

Now he is flip flopping on a subject that we lovers of the environment knew was a wrong decision. Now he says nodrill baby nodrill. To which I say welcome to the dance. Better late then never.



Ahnold is a lame duck doozy.


smokers are welcome,they control thier weight better,even tho I don't smoke. It's thier choice in america,like supporting the vat tax and terrorism, it's all here to choose from..enjoy the moment..as of smoking..it all leads to death..what the hell, got to die of something correct? At least with this huge devasting oil spill, look at the positive, you won't have to add oil to your pan when you fry fish...ain't our country cool? or, isn't it our country anymore? perhaps western china? The sad truth will indeed be at hand soon..no more guessing who is the bad guy, so sad, as america actually started out with freedom for all, and riches for the corrupt leaders, did I say corrupt..so sorry, I meant not to offend those who aren't. Off the subject matter anyway..california is in deep ga ga so what does anything matter. Enjoy what you create, you soon will be on your own..good luck arnold, We all know you try very hard at having california a poster child state for fiscal responsibility.. I however, feel the people are good, just used, misdirected,abused and really need to find a course prior to falling into the pacific..please bail yourself out arnold,you created it, live with it! our state is healthier by not buying things we can't pay for. gee, I wonder if this could ever catch on. Lead by example arnold...you really seem to be a very good actor as it is quite evident in the way you lead...god bless..california will need his help...no pity for those who wish to destroy themselves through knowingly bodily destruction...


While, as outrageous as this classically Draconian argument is, it's not unheard of. Groups such as ASH as well as the American Cancer Society would love to see smokers hung in the street for their "filthy" habit. And California, ah, California, a state where a town passed a law banning smoking entirely. Where are we living? The dangers of cigarette smoking acknowledged, if you'd like to see smoking gone because of the health hazards, take away fried chicken, and Big Macs, and Coca Cola, and Red Bull, and Colt 45 Malt Liquor, and...it goes on, and on, and on. When and where does it stop? Sure, smoking drains the common pot in to which we all contribute, however, smoking is an individual choice. For all of those gas guzzling, cognac drinking politicians and special interest groups chairs, take a hike. I'll light my cigarette, you drink your cognac, because in the end, we're all a detriment to society.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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