SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 25 -- City legislators voted 8 to 3 to ban smoking in public parks Tuesday, making San Francisco the first major U.S. city to embrace such an expansive ban on tobacco use.
"This is the first one that includes all the parks and recreational centers in a county," said Michela Alioto-Pier, a city legislator who sponsored the proposed ban. It needs the approval of Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) to become law.
Several smaller California cities have prohibited smoking in city parks, including Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, as well as Fresno, in central California. A few cities outside California have limited bans on smoking in local parks.
"It is a danger to our small children and not a particularly good example for them either," Alioto-Pier said in an interview. Parks, she said, are "an area, unfortunately, where there is a lot of litter, and cigarette butts make up four times as much litter as anything else out there. It is a detriment to the environment. It takes 10 to 12 years for a cigarette butt to biodegrade, and the toxins go into the groundwater."
State legislators are also considering banning smoking along California's beaches, although Los Angeles and other areas have already done so at piers and beaches.
Banning smoking in parks still falls short of a new prohibition in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which last month banned smoking everywhere in public.