Local groups want ‘No Smoking’ signs on beaches.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Unfortunately for local marine life, the insouciant flick of a cigarette butt onto the beach can create years of problems. According to Dale Hillard, chair of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Monterey County, spent cigarettes are the number one type of trash that litters beaches, and those cigarettes can take seven years or more to break down. When seals and seagulls mistake a cigarette butt for lunch, the animals’ intestinal tract or throat gets blocked, causing malnutrition or death.
Michelle House, who works as staff to the Coalition and is the coordinator of the tobacco control program for the County’s Health Department, wants cigarette smoking banned from local city beaches.
“We want to pass an ordinance so it becomes part of city law,” she says. “They did it last fall in Santa Cruz County for the city of Santa Cruz and the city of Capitola.”
House has lots of physical evidence to support her argument. The Coalition collaborated with the Ocean Conservancy-sponsored California Coastal Cleanup Day last September, and with the help of volunteers, collected an astounding number of cigarette butts from local beaches in one day: 5,172 from Lovers Point Beach in Pacific Grove; 2,478 from Carmel City Beach; 1,688 from Sand City Beach; and 1,004 from MacAbee Beach in Monterey.
With the help of Luke Mull, a CSU Monterey Bay senior majoring in Collaborative Health and Human Services, the cigarette butts have been preserved for evidence.
“Luke is doing his Capstone [senior project] on tobacco free beaches,” House says. “He counted and weighed all the cigarette butts and put them in clear plastic containers.”
House relies on the shock value of boxes of stinky cigarette butts to make her point to local municipalities. She has taken the cigarettes to the Sand City City Council (they declined to pass an ordinance), and on May 18, (past the Weekly’s deadline) planned a similar appearance at the Pacific Grove City Council meeting.
House says that an initial presentation to the PG Parks and Recreation Department got a strong reaction.
“They were like, ‘Wow. Now please take the butts with you,’” she says. “They were grossed out.”
This time, House is letting local teens have the floor. On April 16, two Pacific Grove youth clubs collected 2,806 cigarette butts at Lovers Point Beach. The groups were scheduled to bring the butts to the May 18 council meeting .
Mull, a surfer who has worked as a beach lifeguard since he was a teenager, hopes that the butts have the desired effect on the council.
“There are 13 or 14 beaches in the state that have passed [no smoking] ordinances,” he says. “I hope that we can get a city to pass this, and the rest will follow.”